As Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra surveyed the scene at the health-club gym in the team’s hotel on Friday morning, there was a sense of renewal.
“It feels like we’re whole,” he said.
With forward Jimmy Butler back after missing seven games with a sore right knee, only center Omer Yurtseven, who is recovering from ankle surgery, is away from the team. Even guard Victor Oladipo continues to ramp up his work as he prepares for his season debut, after his rebab from a knee issue.
“That brings life into our whole group,” Spoelstra said ahead of Friday night’s game against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. “We all know how important [Butler] is for our team, and it’s just great to have the entire group back in the same gym, including Vic. We’ll get Omer back with us soon enough.
“We’re not fully healthy, but you could just feel like the momentum’s starting to shift. We’re starting to get guys feeling a lot better.”
Spoelstra said Butler’s time away from the team was productive in its own way.
“Jimmy had some great work, no setbacks. He did daily doubles back there in Miami,” Spoelstra said of those workout sessions, with Butler previously also having addressed such knee pain.
“And we’ve been through this process with him. It’s not like he’s just sitting back, only getting treatment. He’s getting a ton of work in, both on his conditioning, his ball skills, all that stuff. But he’s also a veteran; he knows how to work his way back in as well as anybody. We need him. We need him right now.”
Center Bam Adebayo said there was a sense of completeness at the morning shootaround.
“We’re always gonna feel better when we have most of our guys,” he said. “It’s good to have our star player back. He brings that tenacity, that edge that we need.”
Adebayo said with a player such as Butler, readjustment is basic.
“I don’t think it should take that long,” he said. “We’ve been together for two years at this point, same team. I feel like everybody knows Jimmy’s tendencies and how he operates.
“Guys get banged up in this league, an 82-game season. So the best thing for us is to just take care of our bodies.”
Spoelstra said it means an upgrade on both ends of the court.
“He just gives us more versatility, more toughness, another guy that can just make a lot of plays on the defensive side,” he said. “Schematically, I don’t know how much that’ll change what we’re doing. It will a little bit.
“Offensively, it doesn’t change much how we’ve been playing. Because we were already starting to trend in the right direction when he was with us. We just have to try to continue to maximize all of our strengths as much as possible.”
Spoelstra praised the ability of guard Max Strus to have stepped into the starting lineup when both Butler and guard Tyler Herro were out.
“And that’s a credit to the development, for two and a half years,” Spoelstra said. “He’s really played every role for us in those three seasons. He’s been a developmental player. He’s been a 10th man, ninth man, eighth man, seventh, sixth, a starter. I think that’s given him the emotional stability to understand a game that he can impact a game and impact our team from wherever he is, whatever role that is.
“And you need that versatility. You need guys that you can plug and play into different spots, based on who’s available and what’s required for the game. And Max is just continuing to gain confidence in a lot of different roles.”
Spoelstra said the ongoing plantar fasciitis remains an ongoing process with the left foot of backup center Dewayne Dedmon.
“He’s able to manage it,” Spoelstra said, with Dedmon held out of Wednesday’s loss to the Celtics. “He has more good days than bad. But then there’s just some days that are really tough.
“He’s getting a lot of treatment. He’s putting all the work in. I really commend him for the time he spends to get himself ready to play.”