Are Heat serving the greater good with new starting lineup? – The Denver Post


Erik Spoelstra has spent years stressing the greater good, “selflessness” and “sacrifice” his core pillars for a franchise that doesn’t always have All-Stars but almost always finds a way to contend.

But now in his 15th season as Miami Heat coach, there also seemingly is an acceptance that metrics, analytics and allegiance to the greater good at times have to give way to business and brashness.

So while arguments, compelling arguments, certainly could be made otherwise, all indications are that Wednesday night, when the Miami Heat open their 35th season, Tyler Herro will be rolled out with the starting unit.

Because you don’t sign off on a $130 million contract for a reserve.

And because all involved recognize how much it means to the fourth-year guard.

Granted, others have lobbied, pushed, prodded for the starting lineup. And with Bam Adebayo, at a time there still was faith in Hassan Whiteside, there was a degree of pushback from the franchise.

But Herro could not have made the desire any clearer after Wednesday night’s preseason finale.

There, standing in front of his locker at FTX Arena, and still looking younger than his 22 years, he turned the question of why he so wanted to be a starter into a question for the questioner.

“Same reason you want a promotion,” he said respectfully but categorically. “I didn’t come into the league trying to be a bench player. That’s just not who I am. I’m motivated to be one of the best players in the league at some point in my career, and I don’t think I can do it coming off the bench.”

Herro’s four-year, $130 million extension (with $120 million guaranteed) certainly is beyond the paygrade of a reserve. but that deal also does not kick in until a year from now, at the start of 2023-24.

At the moment, at $5.7 million for this season, he ranks eighth on the Heat payroll, behind Jimmy Butler ($37.7 million), Adebayo ($30.4 million), Kyle Lowry ($28.3 million) and even Duncan Robinson ($16.9 million), Victor Oladipo ($8.8 million) and Caleb Martin ($6.5 million), just ahead of Dewayne Dedmon ($4.7 million).

And there certainly is nothing wrong with a team’s eighth-highest paid playing as a reserve.

In fact, it is because of what we’ve seen to this point about one of those just above Herro in paygrade that creates consternation with Herro as starter.

Had Oladipo shown during the preseason that he had regained his burst, his missing step, after four injury-plagued seasons, a case could be made for balance in the rotation, with Oladipo as go-to scorer of the second unit.

But that has not happened. It was not a good preseason for Oladipo.

Instead, based on what Spoelstra rolled out in Wednesday’s dress rehearsal, with Adebayo, Martin, Butler, Lowry and Herro as starters, there is practically no shot creation in the second unit of Dedmon, Max Strus, Robinson, Gabe Vincent and Oladipo.

Granted, as Spoelstra noted before going 10 deep with his primary rotations Wednesday, there almost assuredly will not be a two-platoon approach during the regular season. So there certainly is the wherewithal to have either Herro or Butler to provide go-to offense with the second unit.

But with Oladipo not yet close to All-Star Oladipo, and with shot creation lacking to the degree that two-way player Jamal Cain already stands among the Heat’s best in that regard, Herro as starter may not exactly be serving the greater good.

On one hand, by playing Herro alongside the defensive-minded likes of Adebayo, Martin, Butler and Lowry it somewhat mitigates his defensive deficiencies. But amid the call for more shots from Adebayo and the reality that Martin could well have more attempts than shot-shy P.J. Tucker, it also could mean less first-team creation opportunities for Herro.

To his credit, Spoelstra has shuffled through lineups as needed, when needed.

Last year, for example, Robinson was an opening-night starter. Then, eventually, he was not.

In 2020, Moe Harkless was a Heat opening-night starter. Four games later, he was on the bench.

And in 2019, Justise Winslow was an opening-night starter, only to be dealt at the trading deadline.

So, yes, Spoelstra starting lineups evolve.

And with the Heat, they hardly are written in stone.

But in this case, it is possible the greater good is taking a back seat.


STILL GOING: At the same time coach Erik Spoelstra this past week was citing to the Heat’s prospects the perseverance that eventually landed former Heat guard Rodney McGruder an enduring role with the team, McGruder was being praised by coach Dwane Casey for the veteran leadership now being provided to the Detroit Pistons. “Rodney’s a stone-cold leader,” Casey told The Detroit News. “He’s always looking out for the young guys. He’s always talking to the young guys and you gotta have a vet on the team like that.” McGruder actually was dealt by the Pistons last season to the Denver Nuggets, but that deal was rescinded when Bol Bol failed his Detroit physical. He then was signed back this summer at the veteran minimum. So back at it as a mentor it is for McGruder, 31. “I just wanna enjoy the ebbs and flows of the season,” McGruder said. “Just enjoy watching the young guys get better and enjoy us coming together as a unit.”

EXAMPLE CITED: Assistant coach John Lucas, who was filling in for sidelined Stephen Silas, who was recovering from COVID, used this past week’s shootaround at FTX Arena as a source of motivation for his team, citing the Heat’s enduring presence in the NBA playoff hunt. “I told them at the end of shootaround that this is the kind of culture that we’re trying to get to and to try to build and continue to grow, saying we want our own identity but something very similar,” he said, according to the Houston Chronicle. “They seem to always be right there to win it or be in the middle of the pack. That’s where we want to be.”

CURTAIN CALL: Wednesday night’s Heat season opener could be the first of two curtain calls at FTX Arena this season for former Heat guard Goran Dragic, who signed offseason with the Chicago Bulls. At 36, Dragic acknowledged to The Athletic that the NBA end might be near. “I always worked hard. I always tried to be better the next season,” said Dragic, who is entering his 15th NBA season. “I feel like because of that I’m still here. This means I just want to enjoy basketball. I’m probably close to the end of my career.” The Bulls’ final regular-season visit to FTX is Dec. 20. “I’m still here. I’m still enjoying basketball,” Dragic said. “That’s the most important thing.”

SIMILAR STANCE: Even with the late addition of Montrezl Harrell, the Philadelphia 76ers, as the Heat often did last season, are toying with the idea of playing 6-foot-5 P.J. Tucker at times as their backup center. Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers cited it as a means of getting opposing big men, such as Rudy Gobert, out of the defensive paint. “You can really just play an unorthodox basketball with that,” Rivers said, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Playing Minnesota, making that five stand out at the corner is good for us.” Tucker said small ball basically is the only answer when subbing in for 7-foot Joel Embiid, “Everybody’s smaller than him.”

A SLOW PLAY: As might be expected at his age, former Heat forward Andre Iguodala is getting the Udonis Haslem treatment with the Golden State Warriors, already ruled out for the season opener. “He won’t be ready for the first game,” coach Steve Kerr said of Iguodala, 38, who did not announce his return until the eve of camp. “We are going to push that back and really look at the big picture. It’s an 82-game season, so we want him healthy long term. Given that he needed some time in camp and get where he needs to be, he won’t be ready by opening night.” Iguodala, who returned to the Warriors in the 2021 offseason, when he was a Heat free agent, played extensively at the start of last season only to be limited by injury for both the second half of the season and most of the Warriors’ playoff run to the championship.


45. Number of 3-pointers needed by Duncan Robinson to pass Tim Hardaway as the Heat’s all-time leader. Hardaway converted 806 in 367 games with the Heat. Robinson has made 762 in 239 with the franchise. As a matter of perspective, Robinson, even in a reduced role, converted 232 last season, averaging 2.9 per game.



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