Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra disappointed Rodney McGruder, Hassan Whiteside snubbed in post-season

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra believes Hassan Whiteside deserved better in the balloting for the league’s top defensive players. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

We take a short break from free agency news to update you on Erik Spoelstra’s feelings about the league awards. …

The Heat coach defended his team this week against the snubs in the voting for the All-League rookie and defensive teams by 100 media members.

Spoelsta was especially disappointed that Rodney McGruder did not make an All-Rookie team. McGruder, who started 65 games and played in 78 this season, received 61 votes, the most among the players who did not make the first or second team. He was two points behind Dallas’ Yogi Ferrell, who played in 36 games.

“I was extremely disappointed about the lack of recognition for Rodney McGruder and what he did for us this year,” Spoelstra said. “He was one of the toughest, most competitive, detailed, defenders in the league. He took on the challenge every single night as one of the best wing defenders. Forget about being just a rookie. … an impactful pro.

“What we did during the second half of the season was as much about the mentality and toughness Rodney McGruder gave for us as it was anybody else. I was so disappointed he didn’t get recognized for that.”

Spoelstra added he thought McGruder was “a lock” for at least one rookie team, adding there was discussion about him possibly being rookie of the year.

“He had that kind of impact. I think he led all rookies in minutes, quality minutes for a team competing for the playoffs. And the challenge he took every single night guarding those wing prolific scorers was tremendous. He showed great growth. This won’t stop him. This just adds more fuel to his fire.”

Spoelstra then moved on to players like Hassan Whiteside and James Johnson receiving little credit for their defense.

The Heat finished fifth in the NBA in defensive rating, fifth in opponents’ points per game (102.1) and seventh in opponents’ field goal percentage (.450). Yet, only Whiteside’s name appeared on the list when it came to the All-Defensive team and Defensive Player of the Year voting.

Whiteside had 25 votes for the All-Defensive team, which placed him sixth among ‘other players receiving votes,’ and he was sixth in the Defensive Player of the Year voting with three third place votes.

“It was disappointing not to see Hassan recognized,” Spoelstra said. “We all felt he was a much better team defender this year than in the year he was recognized. And he’ll continue to keep on getting better as his understanding the game gets better, how to impact winning more, how to impact team defense more and not just with statistics. I think hopefully if we can build a winning team and he continues to progress then he’ll not only get recognized for not only one of the All-Defensive teams awards but hopefully something better.”

Whiteside was second team All-Defense in 2015-16.

Additionally, Johnson, who was among the best players in the league statistically when it came to holding players he guarded below their normal field goal percentage, was not among the 49 players who received votes for the All-Defensive teams.

Spoelstra said he believes the Heat “flew too much under the radar” the first half of the season because of their record.

“Only the last eight weeks of the season did anybody acknowledge or recognize what we were doing and it probably was a little bit too late, which was unfortunate,” he said.

One person in the organization was recognized and that was Spoelstra. He finished second to Houston’s Mike D’Antoni in the Coach of the Year balloting by the media and shared the award with D’Antoni in the voting by the coaches.

But that was one award Spoelstra did not want to talk about.

“Somebody asked me how I felt about the coach of the year,” he said. “None of us felt disappointed about that. We weren’t even thinking along those lines.”

Later, this was as close as he came to acknowledging the achievement.

“You’re in a group with the studs of this profession,” he said. “That alone is enough.

“One, to be able to work for a first class organization which I do and then to be recognized with a guy like (Gregg Popovich) who is the gold standard and Mike who anybody would have voted for him to be coach of the year.”

And now. … back to free agency.

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Rockets’ Mike D’Antoni beats out Heat’s Erik Spoelstra, Spurs’ Gregg Popovich for Coach of the Year

Miami’s Erik Spoelstra gives instructions to his team during a game at Chicago in January.
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Leading the Miami Heat to the biggest turnaround in NBA history while going 30-11 the second half of the season was not enough to get coach Erik Spoelstra the NBA’s official Coach of the Year award.

Spoelstra finished second to Houston’s Mike D’Antoni in the voting  by 100 media members. San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich was third. The winner was announced Monday at the NBA’s first annual awards show in New York. D’Antoni, Spoelstra and Popovich were named finalists last month.

D’Antoni received 400 points including 68 first place votes. Spoelstra had 153 points, nine first place votes.

Spoelstra and D’Antoni shared the inaugural Michael H. Goldberg National Basketball Coaches Association Coach of the Year award, which was voted upon by the coaches and announced in early May.

Spoelstra, 46, guided the Heat to the biggest turnaround in league history, going from 11-30 in the first half of the season to 30-11 in the second half. Miami is the only team in league history to finish .500 after being 19 games under at some point during that season. He did this without one player on the roster ever being named an All-Star and with the Heat leading the league with 328 player games lost to injury or illness.

The Heat tied with the Bulls for the eighth-best record in the Eastern Conference but failed to make the playoffs, the final spot going to Chicago because of a tie-breaker.

Spoelstra has never been named Coach of the Year, finishing runner-up to Denver’s George Karl in 2012-13 after leading Miami to 66 wins. Pat Riley remains the only Heat coach to win the award when he was named the league’s top coach in 1996-97.

D’Antoni, 65, led the Rockets to the third best record in the NBA (55-27) and the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference in his first season in Houston. D’Antoni improved Houston’s win total by 14 games and put James Harden in position to become a legitimate MVP candidate.

Popovich completed his 21st season as head coach of the Spurs. He led San Antonio to a 61-21 record, second best in the West. He has been named Coach of the Year three times, 2003-03, 2011-12 and 2013-14.

[Hassan Whiteside left off NBA’s All-Defensive teams; James Johnson didn’t even get one vote]

[Heat’s Rodney McGruder finishes just short of making NBA All-Rookie team]

[A look at each player on the Miami Heat’s roster: Who will be back next season?]

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Vote: Should Heat coach Erik Spoelstra win the NBA’s Coach of the Year award?

Head coach Erik Spoelstra of the Miami Heat follows the play during the first half of the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena on January 3, 2017 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Erik Spoelstra already won one coach of the year award this offseason. Will he add another award to his resume next month?

Spoelstra was named the co-winner of the inaugural Michael H. Goldberg National Basketball Coaches Association Coach of the Year award earlier this month, sharing the honor with Houston’s Mike D’Antoni. On Friday, it was revealed Spoelstra is a finalist for the NBA’s Coach of the Year award that will be announced June 26 during the first ever NBA awards show televised by TNT. Continue reading “Vote: Should Heat coach Erik Spoelstra win the NBA’s Coach of the Year award?”

Miami Heat’s Erik Spoelstra a finalist for another coach of the year award

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra , already co-winner of the Coaches Association Coach of the Year, is a finalist for the media award. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Already having been named coach of the year by his peers, the Miami Heat’s Erik Spoelstra is a finalist for the same award as voted upon by the media.

Two weeks ago, Spoelstra was named co-winner of the inaugural Michael H. Goldberg National Basketball Coaches Association Coach of the Year award, sharing the honor with Houston’s Mike D’Antoni. On Friday, it was revealed he is a finalist for the award that will be announced June 26 during the first ever NBA awards show that will be televised by TNT.

Spoelstra, D’Antoni and San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich are the three finalists.

Finalists also were announced for Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Sixth Man Award and Most Improved Player. The Heat were shutout of all player awards.

Forward James Johnson was a possible candidate for three of those awards – defensive player, sixth man and most improved. Johnson had a breakout season and now will be rewarded when he becomes a free agent July 1.

Guard Tyler Johnson (sixth man), forward Rodney McGruder (rookie) and center Hassan Whiteside (defensive player) also were in the conversation for league awards.

Spoelstra, 46, guided the Heat to the biggest turnaround in league history, going from 11-30 in the first half of the season to 30-11 in the second half. Miami is the only team in league history to finish at .500 after being 19 games under at some point during that season. The Heat tied with the Bulls for the eighth-best record in the Eastern Conference but the final playoff spot went to Chicago because of the tie-breaker.

The coaches award was time first time Spoelstra was recognized as the league’s top coach in his nine-year career despite winning two titles and leading the Heat to four trips to the Finals.

The NBA Awards are chosen by a global panel of sportswriters and broadcasters.

Here are the finalist for the NBA awards:

Most Valuable Player: James Harden, Houston; Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio; Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City.

Coach of the Year: Mike D’Antoni, Houston; Gergg Popovich, San Antonio; Erik Spoelstra, Miami.

    Defensive Player of the Year: Rudy Gobert, Utah; Draymond Green, Golden State; Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio.

Sixth Man Award: Andre Iguodala, Golden State; Eric Gordon, Houston; Lou Williams, Houston.

Most Improved Player: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee; Rudy Gobert, Utah; Nikola Jokic, Denver.

    Rookie of the Year: Malcolm Brogdon, Milwaukee; Joel Embid, Philadelphia; Dario Saric, Philadelphia.

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Miami Heat’s Erik Spoelstra named NBCA co-Coach of the Year

Erik Spoelstra’s peers recognized him for the job he did in leading the Miami Heat to a .500 record this season. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

After nine seasons, two titles, four trips to the Finals and seven playoff appearances, the Miami Heat’s Erik Spoelstra finally has been formally recognized as one of the  best coaches in the league.

Spoelstra was named co-winner of the inaugural Michael H. Goldberg National Basketball Coaches Association Coach of the Year award it was announced Sunday. He shares the honor with the Houston Rockets’ Mike D’Antoni.

The award, voted upon by league’s 30 head coaches, is named for the longtime executive director of the coaches association who died earlier this year. The winner of the media voting will be announced June 26.

Dallas Mavericks coach and NBCA President Rick Carlisle recognized Spoelstra and D’Antoni.

“Congratulations to Mike and Erik on their outstanding work this year,” Carlisle said. “And somewhere up above our good friend Michael Goldberg is very proud.”

Spoelstra, 46, guided the Heat to the biggest turnaround in league history, going from 11-30 in the first half of the season to 30-11 in the second half. Miami is the only team in league history to finish at .500 after being 19 games under at some point during that season. The Heat tied with the Bulls for the eighth-best record in the Eastern Conference but the final playoff spot went to Chicago because of the tie-breaker.

This, despite Miami leading the league with 328 player games lost to injury or illness.

Spoelstra is 440-282 in his nine seasons as head coach. The closest he ever came to winning a coach of the year award was following the 2012-13 season after Miami finished 66-16.  Denver’s George Karl won the media award with a 57-25 record. Spoelstra was runner-up, 214 votes behind. The season ended with the Heat winning their second consecutive title under Spoelstra.

In the other three years of the Big Three in which Miami averaged nearly 53 victories, went to the Finals each year and won the 2012 title, Spoelstra received one Coach of the Year vote. … combined. That was a first place vote in 2010-11. The next year 15 different coaches received at least one vote as did 10 different coaches in 2013-14 .

Heat President Pat Riley believes coaching this team, which lost Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, and included seven new players, was a different challenge for Spoelstra.

“There’s always challenges when you have great teams that are supposed to win. … And then there’s this kind of challenge in which I think he’s handled with great experience and by staying the course,” Riley said.

Heat guard Goran Dragic posted a video late in the season endorsing his coach for the top honor.

“In my opinion, he should win Coach of the Year,” Dragic said. “Everybody knows how we started the season and how we’ve bounced back, and a lot of credit goes to Erik.”

D’Antoni, 65, led the Rockets to the third best record in the NBA (55-27) and the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference in his first season in Houston. D’Antoni improved Houston’s win total by 14 and put James Harden in position to become a legitimate MVP candidate.

Houston is D’Antoni’s fifth head coaching job.

Other coaches to receive votes included Washington’s Scott Brooks, Memphis’ David Fizdale, Golden State’s Steve Kerr, Milwaukee’s Jason Kidd, San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich, the Clippers’ Doc Rivers and Utah’s Quin Snyder.

Spoelstra and D’Antoni will receive their trophy at the NBCA annual meeting of head coaches in September.

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The case for the Miami Heat’s Erik Spoelstra for Coach of the Year

Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra watches during the second half of game against Portland in Miami in March. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

The lamest argument against Erik Spoelstra for NBA Coach of the Year is the Miami Heat did not make the playoffs.

That means the vote comes down to how the Pacers did against the Hawks or how the Bulls did against the Nets on the final night of the regular season?

How does that make any sense?

If either of those two teams lose, Spoelstra is deemed the league’s best coach because the Heat make the playoffs with the exact same 41-41 record and exact same 30-11 run the second half of the season?

A run that gave the Heat the second-best record in the league over the final three months, behind the Warriors.

We all know that did not happen, the Heat lost out on the postseason on a tie-breaker and Erik Spoelstra is not going to win Coach of the Year. …

But he should.

That award, which will be announced at the first-ever NBA Awards banquet June 26, likely will go to Mike D’Antoni, who improved Houston’s win total by 14 to 55-47 and put James Harden in position to become a legitimate MVP candidate.

But the case for Spoelstra is strong, and not just as some mercy vote to atone for finishing second in 2013 when he led the Heat to a 66-20 record.

Even with that run in which the Heat played in four consecutive Finals, this was Spoelstra’s best coaching job. And while the burden on a coach should not be dismissed when a team has three (or, as he did during two of those Finals runs, four) future Hall of Famers, Spoelstra’s job was so much more difficult, on and off the court, this season.

Spoelstra is my choice not only for taking a team that did not have one All-Star, current or past, from an 11-30 first half to a stunning reversal in the second half of the season, but for the job he did while not blowing a whistle or scheming on a dry-erase board. He kept this players’ spirits buoyed and kept them from turning into the Nets when they were 19 games under .500 entering of Jan. 17.

“The man has won two world championships,” Heat president, and Spoelstra’s mentor, Pat Riley said during the season. “He’s been in more big, big games with a different team. There’s always challenges when you have great teams that are supposed to win. … And then there’s this kind of challenge in which I think he’s handled with great experience and by staying the course.”

[Goran Dragic’s summer vacation: Trips to dentist, spending time with family, playing for national team]

[Ex-NBA commissioner David Stern: ‘Shame on the Nets’ for resting players on final night of season]

[Does trading for Paul George make sense for the Heat?]

The award should be narrowed to five candidates: Spoelstra, D’Antoni, San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich, Boston’s Brad Stevens and Utah’s Quin Snyder.

Spoelstra undeniably had the least to work with among the candidates. And it wasn’t close.

Just look at the number of All-Star Games represented on each roster: Spurs 23, Jazz 8, Celtics 6, Rockets 5. …

Heat 0.

And if you want to expand the pool to Washington’s Scott Brooks and the Warriors Steve Kerr (whose team had the league’s best record at 76-12), the Wizards have four All-Star appearances on their roster and the Warriors have 20.

Speaking of the best record: That 2012-13 season when Miami won 66 games, Denver’s George Karl won the award with a 57-25 record. Spoelstra was runner-up, 214 votes behind.

But here’s the most inexplicable number surrounding Spoelstra when it comes to Coach of the Year voting: In the other three years of the Big Three, three seasons in which the Heat went to three Finals, won a title and averaged nearly 53 wins a season, Spoelstra received one vote. … combined.

That was a first place vote in 2010-11. The next year 15 coaches received at least one vote, none named Erik Spoelstra. That same thing happened in 2013-14.

Just three times has the league’s coach of the year not had a winning record, and once he had a losing record, Johnny Kerr whose 1966-67 Chicago Bulls were 33-48.

Hubie Brown won the award in 1977-78 when his Atlanta Hawks were 41-41 and the last coach to win the award without a winning record is Doc Rivers, whose 1999-00 Magic team also finished 41-41 and also missed the playoffs by one game. Orlando finished one game behind the No. 8. This season Heat were tied with the Bulls for the eighth-best record in the conference but lost out on a tie-breaker.

The teams were similar in that the Magic became known for their “heart and hustle” that season – a label that certainly could be attached to this season’s Heat – and, though not as dramatic as Miami’s poor start and late-season run, Orlando was once eight games under .500 and rallied late by winning 10-of-15 games.

The dagger for Orlando was on the second-last game of the season when it lost a heartbreaking two-point game to the Bucks. A win that would have put the Magic in the playoffs and even given them a chance at the No. 7 seed.

Sound familiar?

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Miami Heat’s Erik Spoelstra gaining momentum in Coach of Year conversation. But can he win it?

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra watches his team during the first half of Miami’s victory at the Knicks on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Miami’s Erik Spoelstra name is coming up more frequently in Coach of the Year talk with the Heat solidly in contention for a playoff spot.

The latest are analysts Greg Anthony and Jeff Van Gundy.

Anthony declared Monday on NBA TV that, “if the Heat make the playoffs, Erik Spoelstra is coach of the year.”

Van Gundy, talking to Fox 26 in Houston, said his top two are Spoelstra and the Rockets’ Mike D’Antoni.

This follows what analyst Reggie Miller tweeted last week to his nearly 800,000 followers:

“My Coach of the Year vote goes to Erik Spoelstra, especially if the Heat end up making Playoffs.. Miami had to reinvent themselves..”

Miller went on to say Boston’s Brad Stevens, D’Antoni and Utah’s Quin Snyder are strong candidates but that each is “working with All Stars and potential MVPs.”

Spoelstra also received love from Hall of Famers Kevin McHale and Isiah Thomas on Monday.

McHale said he didn’t think the Heat would win 25 games and then “they started believing in each other. A lot of that goes to Erik Spoelstra.”

Thomas said the Heat “probably are the most physically fit team in the East.”

The Heat (37-38) have won 26-of-34 games after having the second worst record in the league at 11-30. Miami is No. 7 in the East by virtue of owning the tiebreaker over Indiana, 1.5 games ahead of No. 9 Chicago.

With Atlanta and Milwaukee tied for the fifth and sixth best records in the league (39-36), the Heat are two games out of the fifth spot.

Heat guard Goran Dragic recently posted a video on Twitter through “Uninterrupted” campaigning for Spoelstra to be coach of the year.

“In my opinion, he should win Coach of the Year,” Dragic said. “Everybody knows how we started the season and how we’ve bounced back, and a lot of credit goes to Erik.

“He’s an unbelievable coach, and a lot of players, we love to play for him. He’s putting the guys in the right spots and that’s how the players can thrive under his system. And he’s such a great communicator with all the players.”

FanRag picks Spoelstra over Washington’s Scott Brooks and D’Antoni and the praise has come from all corners, including his peers and his boss, Heat president Pat Riley.

The most recent coach to single out Spoelstra was Boston’s Brad Stevens. And Detroit’s Stan Van Gundy, whose team suffered a huge blow to their playoff hopes Tuesday, losing 79-96 at home to the Heat on a Hassan Whiteside tip in at the buzzer, said earlier this season that “there’s  not a better coach in the league” than Spoelstra.

Spoelstra, who was named the Eastern Conference’s coach of the month for February, likely has to get the Heat to .500 and into the playoffs to be a serious contender. If he does – and that could happen Friday when Miami returns home to face the Knicks – the Heat would become the first team in NBA history to reach .500 after being 19 games under.

Just three coaches in history have won the award coaching a team that was .500 or below, the most recent being Doc Rivers when his 1999-00 Orlando team finished 41-41 and missed the playoffs by one game.

One coach who won’t be voting for Spoelstra is Golden State’s Steve Kerr, who said Tuesday he believes D’Antoni has earned the honor.

“I think the fit with the roster and Mike’s philosophy has been perfect,” Kerr said Tuesday. “What he’s so good at is really giving his players confidence and belief. They’re obviously having an amazing year. My guess is that he’ll get the trophy. He’s earned it.”

The Coach of the Year award most is voted upon by the media. The National Basketball Coaches Association also recognizes a COY. That award, which will be named after Michael H. Goldberg, the longtime executive director of the NBCA who died in January, is voted upon by the coaches.

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[NBA officiating report states Hassan Whiteside’s game-winning basket vs. Pistons never should have happened]

[A look at what went right for Heat, wrong for Pistons leading up to Hassan Whiteside’s game-winner]

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A look at Miami Heat’s next challenge — the James Harden-led Rockets and their prolific offense

Houston Rockets' James Harden (13) drives around Orlando Magic's Aaron Gordon (00) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Jan. 6, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Houston Rockets’ James Harden (13) drives around Orlando Magic’s Aaron Gordon (00) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Jan. 6, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

MIAMI — The NBA schedule shows no mercy.

That’s why the Heat (11-30) — in the middle of a four-game losing streak and a stretch that’s included 13 losses in 15 games — are now moving on to face the Rockets (32-11) and their prolific offense on Tuesday at AmericanAirlines Arena. Continue reading “A look at Miami Heat’s next challenge — the James Harden-led Rockets and their prolific offense”