Heat coach Erik Spoelstra says assistant Dan Craig ready to be NBA head coach ‘right now’

MIAMI – Erik Spoelstra was a little busy to watch assistant Dan Craig’s unofficial NBA coaching debut Sunday, but he has caught up since spending that day welcoming his first child into the world.

Spoelstra, who returned to the bench for Tuesday’s convincing victory over Cleveland after he and his wife, Nikki, had their first child, Santiago Ray, on Sunday, praised Craig’s coaching skills, saying Craig, 37, is ahead of where Spoelstra was at Craig’s age.

“When I was that age I was becoming the head coach of the Heat but I told him, ‘you’re a thousand years ahead of where I was at that time,’’’ said Spoelstra, 47, who is in his 10th season as head coach.

“DC’s so much further advanced than I was even my first game. I didn’t know what I was doing. DC’s a well-schooled, well-drilled basketball coach. This guy’s ready to be a head coach right now in the league. He can certainly handle one game. This whole operation the way we’ve worked it guys have really stepped up and taken on more responsibility.”

Miami Heat assistant coach Dan Craig calls a play for his team as they played against the Indiana Pacers during the second half of Sunday’s game in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Spoelstra left the team Saturday when learning Nikki went into labor and missed the first game of his head coaching career the next day. The Heat lost to the Pacers in overtime and although Craig was the acting coach, the loss goes on Spoelstra’s record.

Spoelstra said Craig “looks totally comfortable” in the head chair, especially after the experiences of coaching the Heat’s summer league team and the franchise’s developmental league team in Sioux Falls. Craig coached the Skyforce to the 2015-16 D-League championship. Craig is in his second season as Spoelstra’s assistant head coach.

As for Spoelstra, he leaned on assistant Ron Rothstein his first season. Rothstein was a long-time NBA coach who had stops in Miami and Detroit as a head coach as well as being an assistant for 22 years. Rothstein was the first head coach in Heat history.

“That means something,” Spoelstra said about Craig’s experience. “It gives you a lot of experience under fire whereas my first year coaching I literally had no idea what I was doing. Ronny had to tell me when to call time out. He’d be whispering, ‘hey, time out.’ ‘What?’ ‘Time out.’ ‘What?’ ‘TIME OUT!’

“Ronny was barking at me, screaming at me, ‘put this guy in.’ And finally, ‘we need to blitz him, trap him.’ Without Ronny, my first year I wouldn’t have survived. I just didn’t have the experience. I didn’t have the savviness these guys had at this point. I learned all of mine through pain. On the job training.”

Spoelstra also referenced assistants Juwan Howard and Chris Quinn, and Eric Glass, who moved up to video coordinator and player development coach this season.

“And not only DC but Juwan is ready to take that next step soon; Chris Quinn what he did (as the Heat’s Summer League coach) was tremendous, he’s going to be a future head coach,” Spoelstra said. “Eric Glass behind the bench. … he’s going to be a head coach. He’ll be the next in line to come out of the video room and get on the staff.”

Spoelstra also started in the video room.

“But it just shows you how much our staff has grown, how much it really is a village. Even with me coaching our staff really helps and it shows how much guys have improved.”

[Photo Gallery: Miami Heat host LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers]

[Heat mailbag: Is it dangerous for teams to jockey to face Boston in first round of playoffs?]

[Was Tuesday the final game between LeBron James and Dwyane Wade?]

[With Bam Adebayo ailing (sprained ankle), Heat to face Cavaliers without top two centers]

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Erik Spoelstra passing Pat Riley’s Heat coaching records on all fronts

Erik Spoeltra already has more postseason wins and a better winning percentage than Pat Riley as Miami Heat coaches. Soon he will pass his mentor in regular season wins. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

Erik Spoelstra is living the life of Riley. …

But the Miami Heat coach does not want to talk about it just yet.

Spoelstra moved to within one victory of Pat Riley’s Heat franchise record of 454 regular season wins with Miami’s pounding of the Grizzlies Monday in Memphis.

Spoelstra, 47, was asked to speak about the imminent accomplishment, which could happen Wednesday when the Heat (13-13) return home to face Portland (13-13). He refused. After all, that would be making an assumption and getting ahead of ourselves.

[With defense improving, Miami Heat hope to take advantage of favorable schedule]

[Mailbag: Should Miami Heat start to think about trading Hassan Whiteside?]

“There’s nothing wrong with that,” said Udonis Haslem, the only man on the Heat roster to play for both coaches. “There’s still a long season ahead of us. The plan this season wasn’t to come in and help Spo break Riles’ record. The plan was to get to the playoffs and see where we can go from there.

“I’m sure he’s thankful he (has) the opportunity to break that record but I know his mind is elsewhere.”

But if there is one thing Spoelstra disdains about this profession is he sometimes has to talk about himself. … talk about how he has risen from video coordinator, a job he took just weeks before Riley arrived in the summer of 1995, through the ranks, to head coach.

The rare times he does speak about his career, Spoelstra always credits his mentors, Riley, Ron Rothstein and Stan Van Gundy.

“I don’t think I could have gotten a better mentorship or preparation working for a Hall of Famer in coach Riley, working for Stan Van Gundy before that, working for Rony Rothstein,” Spoelstra said during training camp. “I don’t think I could have had a better setup to be prepared to take that step to be head coach but ultimately you have to go through it.”

No question, the career Spoelstra’s is linked mostly to is Riley’s, his predecessor and team president who groomed Spoelstra as his successor. And Haslem sees the similarities.

“They still preach defense, Miami Heat culture, their principles are still the same,” said Haslem, the team tri-captain who is in his 15th year with the organization.

“Obviously Spo added some things offensively, some things he wants to do with the way the game is today. But overall, values and principles, defensively, everything is still the same.”

Spoelstra, in his 10th season, was named coach by Riley on April 28, 2008. He enters the Portland game 453-295, a franchise best .606 winning percentage. Riley was 454-395 in 11 seasons as a coach with the Heat, a .535 winning percentage.

Recently several analysts, including ESPN’s Jeff Van Gundy, who like Spoelstra followed Riley (in New York) after working as his assistant, said Spoelstra already has Hall of Fame credentials. Spoelstra and Houston’s Mike D’Antoni shared the inaugural Michael H. Goldberg National Basketball Coaches Association Coach of the Year award for last season, one voted upon by the coaches. Spoelstra then finished runner-up to D’Antoni in the the NBA’s official Coach of the Year award.

 Riley, 72, was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008.

Spoelstra has coached the Heat to two titles and four trips to the Finals, all in the Big Three era of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh. He already holds the franchise record with 70 postseason wins.

“It’s a hell of an accomplishment,” Haslem said. “I mean, you’re talking about Pat, a Hall of Fame guy. You get mentioned in that conversation or surpass him or break that record, it’s a tribute to Spo and how he’s grown and the work he’s put into it and the product the organization has put out there on the floor.”

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Pat Riley on Heat’s start, NBA defense, Adebayo and Winslow, being inducted into Miami chamber Hall of Champions

MIAMI – Pat Riley knows this is not the NBA from his heyday as a coach in Los Angeles, New York and with the Miami Heat.

So when the Heat president sees his team’s defense ranked 22nd in the league with a 107.1 rating and 19th allowing 108.5 points per game after four games, he knows other factors go into those numbers.

Pat Riley was inducted into the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce Sports Hall of Champions Thursday.

“There’s a fine line that a coach has to make a decision, when you want to play a pace game,” said Riley, 72, who was inducted into the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce Sports Hall of Champions on  Thursday night. “Look it was easy for me, it was so easy when I coached because I could stop the team by throwing two fingers in the air or a fist in the air and I would take 24 seconds off the shot clock, we would keep the score in the 80s. And sometimes when you’re breaking and running and going hard, and shots are flying, turnovers are happening, layups are being missed, whatever happens, what’s going the other way has to be valuable.”

Riley added once things are settled coach Erik Spoelstra “can either go forward further with it or he can pull back on it. He’s fully committed to it. I think we have the guys that are committed to playing.”

Riley’s teams were noted for their hard-nosed, bloody-the-opponent defense that tried to keep the scores in the 70s and 80s.

“When you control a shot clock on offense for many years like I did, then you can control your defense a lot better, because of the shots you’re taking and guys’ responsibilities,” he said.

“It’s a whole new world, it’s a different game. It really is. I’m excited to watch it, to watch it every single night. Some of the players in this league are exciting and talented and coaches have decided to go that way.”

Riley is not panicking after the 2-2 start that included a 117-110 loss to San Antonio on Wednesday.

“It’s early,” he said. “I’m not assessing anything right now. Let’s get Hassan back. That’s sort of a bummer.”

Center Hassan Whiteside has missed three games because of a bone bruise in his left knee.

Riley, though, is pleased with a couple of aspects of his team since it started training camp a month ago.

“The one thing about the team we see every single day and what we see every single night is it’s going to come hard, they’re going to play hard,” Riley said. “They’re bringing every night with effort and once the efficiency catches up with the effort, maybe some of that pace slows down, giving, I think, a real balance. But right now it’s just too early to assess.”

Riley also praised the play of his last two draft picks, Justise Winslow and Bam Adebayo.

“They’re both young,” he said. “That’s the difference between lottery picks and not having lottery picks or picking in the 20s. … But I’m happy with both Justise and Bam. Listen, five years from now, I hope they’re going to be on the All-Star team.”

Riley was inducted along with former University of Miami baseball coach Jim Morris, former Florida football player Carlos Alvarez and drag racer Darrell Gwynn. The ceremony was held at Marlins Park.

“The chamber of commerce for 23 years has been trying to get me to come, but I was so compulsively obsessed with basketball games I didn’t really want to do many things,” Riley said. “The chamber is absolutely vital to a community and they do a great job. It’s a dedicated group of businessmen and entrepreneurs and people who really care about the city of Miami. It’s an honor to be here”

Riley arrived in South Florida in 1995, hired by Heat owner Micky Arison as the president and coach of the Heat. Since, Miami has won three titles, with Riley coaching the 2006 title team, and played in five NBA Finals.

Heat players/coaches inducted into the Hall of Champions include Udonis Haslem (2016), Dwyane Wade (2015), Rony Seikaly (2005), Rony Seikaly (2005), Alonzo Mourning (2001).

[Heat rookie Bam Adebayo’s starting debut a ‘big ask’ against Spurs front line]

[Goran Dragic, Pau Gasol to have EuroBasket reunion tonight when Miami Heat host San Antonio Spurs]

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30 years of Heat: The early years and an intern who now deals with multi-million dollar contracts as the General Manager

MIAMI – Andy Elisburg was a 20-year-old intern with the Miami Heat in 1988 when managing partner Billy Cunningham said he needed some chores to be done around the office.

“No problem,” Elisburg said, “I’ll get one of my guys to do it.”

Cunningham looked at Elisburg: “You have people? You’re an intern.”

Elisburg epitomizes where the Heat have come in 30 years. Starting as an intern for public relations director Mark Pray, Elisburg, who turns 50 next month, was a student at St. Thomas University when he was hired to do, well, everything, and started working his way up to senior vice president of basketball operations/General Manager.

Andy Elisburg has worked his way up in the Heat organization from an intern in the public relations department to General Manger. (Photo David Alvarez)

When Elisburg worked with numbers nearly 30 years ago it was those he’d type into a bulky computer to be included in the media guide. Today when he works with numbers it’s negotiating multi-million dollar contracts.

The Heat start their 30th season Wednesday with their season opener in Orlando. Elisburg is one of a handful of people who have been with the organization continuously for the three decades, including broadcaster Tony Fiorentino (who was an assistant coach on Ron Rothstein’s original staff), Eric Reid and Jose Paneda.

Back then, the Heat had about 20 employees, not including players. Today, that number is close to 200.

Only a handful of people, including partners Cunningham and Lewis Schaffel, Rothstein, assistant coach Dave Wohl, director of player personnel Stu Inman and trainer Ron Culp, had worked in the NBA.

For the others it was on the job training.

“Those first games it was really crazy because people really had no idea what to do,” Elisburg said.

During the very first time out of the very first game at Miami Arena, Pray handed the partial box score to a runner with instructions to make copies and “give one to everybody.”

The runner suddenly stopped, looked back and wondered, “how am I going to make 15,000 copies for everyone in the building.”

Finally, he was told, “not everyone. … everyone on press row.”

“It was an incredibly rich and wonderful experience,” Elisburg said. “With the fans, we got a chance to experience NBA basketball and professional sports together. It was very much kind of trial by error in learning what works and what doesn’t and what we had to do.”

Elisburg recalls the entire staff rolling 15,000 posters the night before that opening game.

And although Rothstein had spent five seasons as an assistant coach in Atlanta and Detroit, moving over one seat on the bench was a major adjustment for him, too.

“Anytime you get your first head coaching job the reality is you are a little naïve,” Rothstein said. “The real world hasn’t hit you yet. You’re really full of yourself. You really are. I knew that we weren’t going to be good and I knew that we would lose a lot of games. I had no idea it would be that tough.”

Everybody grew together. … through 17 consecutive losses to start their inaugural year, 33 wins the first two years combined, the first coaching change in 1991 when Kevin Loughery replaced Rothstein and their first taste of the postseason in 1992.

“The philosophy of the Heat from the beginning was we’re going to build through the draft which is exactly what we did,” Rothstein said. “We actually were the first of the expansion teams to make the playoffs, Year 4, unfortunately that was after I was gone. I felt our first three years really set the foundation. Year 4 didn’t happen in a bubble.”

Those drafts netted Rony Seikaly, Grant Long, Glen Rice and Steve Smith, the heart of that first playoff team.

Fast forward 30 years from Nov. 5, 1988, the night of the first ever regular season game for a South Florida NBA franchise, to now where three championship banners hang in the rafters of the AmericanAirlines Arena.

But that does not tell the whole story about where this franchise has come, an ascent similar to the one taken by the intern in the public relations department who now holds the title of General Manager.

“You never know when you start something up that it becomes your home and your family,” Elisburg said. “You don’t think 30 years from now we’re going to be here.

“One of the things that is really special when you are a part of something like this is you’re building something beyond you. We’ve built a foundation what will stand the test of time, a history that people will be part of. It’s been special being part of all the things we’ve achieved and the struggles.”

Miami Heat celebrate 30th anniversary in NBA: The Palm Beach Post looks back

30 memorable moments from the team’s history

Aboard the Imagination and in the Dynasty lounge, the Pat Riley era begins

The early years and an intern who now deals with multi-million dollar contracts

A look at how a group of South Florida sports fans became Generation Heat

Ranking the top 30 players in team history

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30 years of Miami Heat: 30 memorable moments from the team’s history

Ray Allen #34 of the Miami Heat makes a game-tying three-pointer over Tony Parker #9 of the San Antonio Spurs in the fourth quarter during Game Six of the 2013 NBA Finals at AmericanAirlines Arena on June 18, 2013 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The Miami Heat will celebrate their 30th season in the NBA this year. Miami entered the league in 1988, and after few rough years, it has been one of the more successful franchises in the NBA, as one of just five teams to win at least three titles over the last 30 years.

In celebration of the Heat’s first three decades we bring you 30 memorable moments in team history:

[playbuzz-item url=”//www.playbuzz.com/adamhs10/the-30-most-important-moments-in-miami-heat-history”]

Miami Heat celebrate 30th anniversary in NBA: The Palm Beach Post looks back

30 memorable moments from the team’s history

Aboard the Imagination and in the Dynasty lounge, the Pat Riley era begins

The early years and an intern who now deals with multi-million dollar contracts

A look at how a group of South Florida sports fans became Generation Heat

Ranking the top 30 players in team history

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Entering 10th season, Erik Spoelstra still can’t shake loss in first playoff series

MIAMI – Erik Spoelstra was the youngest head coach in the NBA when Pat Riley named the then 37-year-old his successor in 2008.

Now, entering his 10th season, Spoelstra has the franchise record for the highest winning percentage at .609 and is second with 440 victories. He holds the postseason records for 70 victories, .619 winning percentage and 15 series won.

Heat president Pat Riley and  head coach Erik Spoelstra at Miami Heat training camp at FAU in Boca Raton. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Yet, despite the records and two World Championships, Spoelstra remains haunted by one failure: The seven-game series loss to the Atlanta Hawks in his first season.

“I wish I could go back right now and coach that first year a little bit differently, in particularly that seven-game series,” he said Sunday after being asked if he could go back what kind of advice now would give that rookie coach.

“There’s probably not a two week stretch where I don’t think about that. That’s probably not healthy. But I think you have to go through the experience.”

The Heat were 43-39 and the No. 5 seed after the 2008-09 season. The fourth-seeded Hawks were four games better and had home court for the first-round series. The Heat led the series 2-1, lost the next two games and won Game 6.

The Hawks prevailed at home in Game 7, 91-78. After leading the league in scoring with a 30.2 average, Dwyane Wade led the Heat in the series with 29.1 points per game.

As for that advice, Spoelstra continued:

“I don’t think I could have gotten a better mentorship or preparation working for a Hall of Famer in coach Riley, working for Stan Van Gundy before that, working for Ronny Rothstein,” he said. “I don’t think I could have had a better setup to be prepared to take that step to be head coach but ultimately you have to go through it.

“So a lot of these decisions I would have done differently. It’s easy to say now but when it’s your first time through you just have to go through and make mistakes.

“I probably would have said enjoy it a little bit more.”

Spoelstra is 440-282 overall entering his 10th season, 70-43 in the postseason.

[Miami Heat rookie Bam Adebayo admits to being ‘nervous’ in preseason debut]

[Heat will continue to lock arms during National Anthem as statement against social, racial injustices]

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Former Miami Heat coach Ron Rothstein receives Assistant Coach Lifetime Impact Award

Ron Rothstein, shown here with Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra, received the Tex Winter Assistant Coach Lifetime Impact Award from the National Basketball Coaches Association. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

MIAMI – Ron Rothstein never had a problem challenging his head coach, whether it was Pat Riley or Chuck Daly or Mike Fratello or any of the other coaches he worked for during his 22 years as an assistant in the NBA.

In fact, Rothstein, who today received the Tex Winter Assistant Coach Lifetime Impact Award from the National Basketball Coaches Association, believes the best head coaches want lieutenants who will say ‘no,’ every now and then.

“You have to make your head coach comfortable with the fact that he knows you’re there to do whatever it takes that helps him be successful on every level whether it’s knowledge, whether it’s telling him ‘no’ when he wants to hear, ‘yes’, whether it’s loyalty,” Rothstein said.

[Mailbag: Will the Heat have enough salary cap room to keep Josh Richardson next summer?]

[A look at how the Heat found a way to maximize their cap space this summer — and what’s next?]

Rothstein has spent more than 50 years in the game, 26 on an NBA bench and all but four as an assistant. And although he got his start in Atlanta and had stops in Detroit, Cleveland and Indiana, Rothstein forever will be linked to the Heat.

Of his four years as a head coach, three were with the Heat, including the franchise’s first three seasons. He then spent nine seasons on Miami’s bench working for Stan Van Gundy, Riley and Erik Spoelstra. In between, Rothstein was the head coach of the Miami Sol of the WNBA for three seasons.

Rothstein, 74, remains a part of the Heat as TV studio and radio analyst as well as a corporate liaison.

The Tex Winter award honors the achievements and commitment of Winter, who spent 19 seasons (1985-2003) as an assistant with the Bulls and Lakers. Winters was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011 as a contributor.

NBCA president Rick Carlisle recognized Rothstein’s impact on the game. Rothstein worked under Carlisle in 2003-04 in Indiana.

“Ron Rothstein is most deserving of this prestigious recognition,” Carlisle said in a statement. “Over several decades, Ronnie has helped countless players and coaches become their very best while continually helping promote the NBA game.”

Rothstein, who was born in New York and captained the University of Rhode Island basketball team his senior season, went from coaching high school to being an assistant for Fratello’s Atlanta Hawks in 1983. He has worked for two Hall of Fame coaches (Riley and Daly) and two coaches who have won more than 1,000 games (Riley and Fratello).

And each of those coaches gave Rothstein the freedom to speak.

“I don’t think I ever had a problem disagreeing with the guy I worked with because I think he knew where I was coming from and that was all about we’re trying to win,” Rothstein said. “Just because I disagreed or I had a different way I thought we should do it didn’t make me a bad guy. That was probably one of my greatest strengths as an assistant coach.”

As for working for Riley, Rothstein said his strength is being well organized – something, he said, Spoelstra learned from Riley – and his “unique way of pushing buttons, thinking outside the box.”

Like having Shaquille O’Neal walk into the locker room with a wheel barrel full of 15 strong cards before the 2006 playoffs or circling June 20 on the calendar when the Heat trailed Dallas 0-2 in the 2006 Finals and telling his team that was the date they were going to win the title (which they did by winning four straight) or packing one suit and one tie for that trip to Dallas for Game 6 when the Heat led 3-2.

“There weren’t too many guys doing things like that,” Rothstein said.

Rothstein said his three years in Miami and one in Detroit as a head coach were eye opening. And it also prepared him even more when he returned to being an assistant. And his three years with the Sol were so rewarding that if the team had not folded he is not sure if he ever would have returned to the NBA.

“You never know what being a head coach is until you do it,” he said. “Once you do it you understand the 24/7 aspects of the job and the great pressures put on a head coach. That is a tremendous help in you being a really good assistant coach.”

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Mailbag: Pat Riley’s influence on Erik Spoelstra; Miami Heat’s path to playoffs

Erik Spoelstra, Pat Riley. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

CHARLOTTE – The season is winding down and the Miami Heat are playing meaningful games, which appeared highly unlikely two months ago.

We’ve received questions about playoff and beyond (draft and free agency) in the past weeks. Today we answer one about Erik Spoelstra’s relationship with Pat Riley along with a question about the Heat’s playoff chances.

If you weren’t able to submit a question this week, send them in for future mailbags via Twitter to @Anthony_Chiang and @tomdangelo44.

From @MikeTrimWPTV: How hands-on is Pat Riley w/Spoelstra? Seeing Spo’s success it makes me wonder how he learned from a legend

Almost every day, as the Heat are winding down practice and we arrive, Spoelstra is talking with Riley, who watches from a table set up in the Heat’s practice court. Spoelstra and Riley are inextricably linked, with the two arriving months apart in 1995 and being together ever since with Riley holding the titles of coach and president and Spoelstra starting in the video room and working his way up to assistant coach and then head coach.

Just about everything Spoelstra learned about being a head coach has come from Riley (he also credits people like Ron Rothstein and Stan Van Gundy for his development). And now, Riley remains at arm’s length with his door always open to Spoelstra.

Just because they talk and just because Spoelstra has always had Riley around for advice, this team – and all of those that have come before it since Spoelstra took over in 2008 – is Spoelstra’s. Riley has allowed Spoelstra to grow on his own through the many ups and few downs, allowed him to make his mistakes and learn from them while keeping a safe distance when it comes to Spoelstra’s coaching style.

From @ChrisHypeTrain: what has to happen for the Heat to make the playoffs?

Okay, where to start. First, the Heat must win, starting tonight in Charlotte. How many wins in their final five games depends on what the others at the bottom of the East bracket do. Basically, look at four teams – Miami, Indiana, Chicago and Atlanta – fighting for the final two spots.

The Heat are a half game behind the Pacers entering tonight but own the tie-breaker. Indiana beating Toronto Tuesday night hurt Miami but the Pacers still must play Milwaukee and Atlanta and two road games, albeit against Orlando and Brooklyn. So, if Miami wins tonight (which should take care of Charlotte) all it has to do is match however many games Indiana wins the rest of the way and they are in.

Miami is in the same spot with Chicago, the difference being the Bulls have the tie-breaker on the Heat. So the Heat must then gain a game on Chicago to pass the Bulls, which will be tough considering the Bulls’ schedule is much more forgiving. But as we have seen in the last week, no game is a given. Look at Miami and Chicago losing to the Knicks.

The Hawks are fading fast. They have lost 9-of-11 and are sixth, and just two games up on Miami. Atlanta still must play Cleveland twice, Boston, Charlotte and Indiana.

Miami has to beat out one of these team to make it. Can they do it? We will see.

[Playoff update: Heat fall out of playoffs after Pacers win; can regain eighth spot with win tonight]

[Dion Waiters will not play Wednesday vs. Hornets, but could join team on three-game trip]

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Miami Heat’s Erik Spoelstra named Eastern Conference Coach of the Month

 

Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra was named coach of the month for the seventh time. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra was named coach of the month for the seventh time.
(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

MIAMI – Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was named the NBA’s Eastern Conference coach of the Month for February.

Spoelstra led the Heat to an 8-3 record, the second-best mark in the East, including a 5-2 road record. Miami won its first five games in February to extend its winning streak to 13, the longest in the NBA this season and the third-longest in franchise history. The Heat also won three of their final four games of the month, with each victory coming against a team currently in position to make the playoffs (Houston Atlanta, Indiana).

Miami, which enters tonight’s home game against Philadelphia winners of 16 of 19, ranked third in the East in scoring (110.3 ppg) and second in points allowed (101.6 ppg) during the month.

San Antonio’s Greg Popovich was named Western Conference Coach of the Month.

Other nominees in the East were Boston’s Brad Stevens, Cleveland’s Tyronn Lue and Detroit’s Stan Van Gundy,

This is Spoelstra’s seventh coach of the month award, the last coming in February 2014. All of his previous six were during the Big Three Era.

Spoelstra has been praised this season by his peers, including Dallas’ Rick Carlisle who said Monday that Spoelstra “has thrust himself in the conversation for coach of the year, without question.”

Carlisle said Spoelstra has, “taken the players that are available and gotten in and conceptually put together one of the best ball movement, drive and kicking teams that I’ve seen in 33 years in this league. They’ve got (Hassan) Whiteside on the inside rebounding and rolling and posting up. (Goran) Dragic and (Dion) Waiters are both playing at an All-Star level, and their role players are knocking down shots.

“They’ve made an amazing turnaround.”

Heat analyst Ron Rothstein, speaking on the Joe Rose Show on 560WQAM this week, has worked under Hall of Fame coaches Pat Riley, Chuck Daly and Hubie Brown and said Spoelstra “takes a back seat to no one.”

Rothstein compared Spoelstra to Daly, the former Jupiter resident who died in 2009. Daly coached four NBA teams and won two titles with the Pistons in 1989 and 1990.

“Chuck Daly was unique,” said Rothstein, who worked under Daly for two years in Detroit. “Chuck had a great way of dealing with stress and dealing with things that a lot of us would get our backs up against the wall and want to fight back.

“I think Erik Spoelstra is the closest thing to Chuck Daly of all the guys I ever worked with. He has that unique perspective to understand players and what motivates them and how you get the most out of them. It’s not the typical way a lot of us (do it). It’s different but boy it’s effective.”

Spoelstra, in his ninth season in Miami, has the Heat (27-33) in the playoff hunt after starting 11-30.

“Erik takes a back seat to no one,” Rothstein said. “He’s his own man, he does it his way, sometimes it’s a bit different, but he has the ability to get the most out of his players. He really does.”

Rothstein, the first head coach in Heat history who later returned as an assistant under Gundy, Riley and Spoelstra, credited Riley’s guidance for helping Spoelstra grow as a coach.

“Pat is there, he’s involved, they talk every single day,” Rothstein said. “Does he do everything that Pat wants him to do? No. Are there disagreements? Yes. That’s part of the process. That’s healthy. People don’t understand that Pat has been Erik’s best friend and mentor and been there for him.

“You as a head coach always want a strong man in that front office a leader, someone you can talk to and someone that will level with you.”

[Miami Heat getting into scoreboard watching but first must take care of their business]

[What are chances Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic wins Player of the Month?]

[Mailbag: Why is Chris Bosh still on the Miami Heat’s roster and when will he be waived?]

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Everything we wrote about Shaq’s number retirement ceremony with Heat … so far

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MIAMI – In case you somehow missed it, Shaquille O’Neal is in town for his jersey retirement ceremony tonight.

Shaq will be part of the TNT crew calling the Heat’s nationally-televised game against the Lakers and at halftime will walk on the floor to see his No. 32 raised to the rafters.

We have been all over the retiring of Shaq’s number with more stories than any other publication in case you missed them so far here you go.

Make that two dozen donuts, please

Philadelphia 76ers v Phoenix SunsGoran Dragic has a unique Shaq experience. As a 22-year-old rookie, Dragic was O’Neal’s teammate on the Phoenix Suns during the 2008-09 season.  It’s unique because O’Neal made sure Dragic fulfilled his rookie obligations.

“First of all, for every home game I had to bring 24 doughnuts,” Dragic said with a smile. “At that time nobody ate doughnuts, only Shaq.”

Read about Dragic’s experience with Shaq here.

 

Haslem the real hero

Shaq becomes the third Heat player to have his number retired. But he will not be the last with Dwyane Wade one day surely to join him, among others.

And then there he one player still wearing a Heat uniform who Shaq believes should see his number raised to the rafters at AmericanAirlines Arena.

 “UD doesn’t get a lot of credit but he was the heart and soul of our team,” Shaq said Wednesday about Udonis Haslem and the Heat’s 2006 title team.

“He’s a guy that came to work every day, did whatever the organization asked of him. He even took less money a couple of times just to stay with the Heat. He should also get his jersey retired because he’s my hero,”

Read more here.

All business on and off the court

Ron Rothstein, was a Heat assistant coach during Shaq’s time in Miami. The first coach in Heat history had some interesting stories for our latest question and answer segment we will bring you throughout the season.

Read what Rothstein had to say here.

riley-shaqNot a happy ending

Shaq’s time with the Heat was short-lived and did not end well.

Shaq criticized the Heat and Pat Riley after he was dealt to the Suns during the 2007-08 season.

Read what he had to say here.

 

Now, about that promise you made

Shaq had made a lot of promises during his career and a few after he was acquired by the Heat in the summer of 2004.

For the most part, he kept them, including his pledge to bring the Heat a championship.

But one he still has not fulfilled and Haslem will not let the Big Fella forget.

 “I’m still waiting on that Bentley he promised if we won the championship in 2006,” Haslem said.

Read more on Shaq’s unfulfilled promise and how he never expected to have his number retired by the Heat here.

Shaq larger than life

Not to be outdone, the Lakers announced Tuesday they will officially unveil a statue of Shaq outside the Staples Center on March 24, 2017. The announcement came two days before Shaq’s No. 32 will be retired by the Heat.

More here.

Five memorable moments

Anytime Shaq is around memorable/silly moments are a given. Shaq had many on and off the court during his brief tenure in Miami. We came up with five.

Read them here.