‘Early signs are there’s some good things happening’ – The Denver Post


Since it became clear in July that the Miami Heat would return mostly the same roster, the goal has been to create something different.

Coach Erik Spoelstra said Monday his team stands poised to put a new face on something familiar, even with 13 players returning from last season.

“Yeah, we already look different,” he said as the Heat continued preparing for Wednesday’s 7:30 p.m. season opener against the Chicago Bulls at FTX Arena. “And that’s the thing when we started talking about this in June and July and August, and as a staff as we were preparing. I think it would have been easy for all of us just to say, ‘Let’s run it back and let’s do the exact same things.’

“And we went through the laborious process of starting with a blank sheet of paper. And let’s act like we don’t know any of that and let’s try to figure out a plan, and let’s be open to see where this can go.”

The only newcomers to this season’s roster are first-round pick Nikola Jovic and two-way players Jamal Cain and Dru Smith. Lost in the offseason were P.J. Tucker and Markieff Morris, with both departing in free agency.

But Spoelstra says redeployment of the other 13 hopefully can represent a fresh start.

“And that won’t stop,” he said. “That will be all season. But just even visually, right now, of how it feels, it already looks different than last year. It remains to be seen whether it’s better or not. But early signs are there’s some good things happening.”

As to how it will play out early in the season, Spoelstra remained coy about his lineup and rotation plans.

“I do want to communicate, so the guys can have a little bit of clarity to be more comfortable,” he said of the work behind the scenes. “But I won’t have all the answers by Wednesday night, because we have a deep team. We have a talented team, versatile group. We want to maximize all of that.

“I also understand fully well I can’t play a 15-man roster, so there’s going to be some guys who are very deserving, they won’t necessarily be in that first game. But I’ll be open to anything. And, as we know, 82-game seasons are long and we’re going to need everybody as we go into it. It’s a good thing. It’s a point of strength of our roster, that we’re deep.”

Working men

Spoelstra said with a week between last Wednesday’s exhibition finale and Wednesday’s opener, practices have been intense, including scrimmages of teams led by Jimmy Butler and Udonis Haslem.

“We had a couple of segments the last two days where it was the red team, which was led by UD, versus, which I won’t say who was on that team,” Spoelstra said, alluding to the starters. “But Jimmy was on that team and a lot of trash talking, because the black team was winning, but then, finally, UD somehow willed and scrapped his way to a couple of wins and he let everybody on the team know it. So you had the two lions going at it after each other.

“I wish we could recreate that every single day. I love that part of it, too, because the younger players got to really see what the real UD is like, not the great mentor who puts his arm around you. He’s a savage at heart, and, again, that’s our language, and he brought that, as well, these last couple of days.”

Still sidelined

Sidelined since the first exhibition due to ankle soreness, center Omer Yurtseven was the only player of the 16 with the team not to practice Monday.

“We’ll just have to continue to treat him,” Spoelstra said. “He’s doing more work and we feel like he’s getting closer. But he’s still day to day.”



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