With the Heat’s roster getting healthier, the team sent rookie Nikola Jovic back to South Dakota on Saturday so the 19-year-old could get some more playing time with the NBA G League’s Sioux Falls Skyforce.
Despite being the Heat’s most recent first-round pick, Jovic will still have to earn his playing time in Sioux Falls, Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said.
“Certainly for him to be able to go there and get some more extended minutes, that helps,” Spoelstra said. “And we’re not just going to play him 40-plus minutes. He has to earn those minutes and contribute to winning to get more minutes.”
Jovic had nine points on four of 11 shooting with 11 rebounds in 33 minutes in the Skyforce’s 113-102 win over the Motor City Cruise.
Spoelstra said “everything” is important for the developing forward this season, whether he’s with the Heat or in the G League.
“When he’s with us, it’s important just to see how we operate, what’s expected from a workload standpoint, from a player development standpoint,” Spoelstra said, “and then also learning how to stay ready so you don’t have to get ready. Your opportunities can happen anytime.”
Popovich expects Spoelstra to be “fantastic” with Team USA
The United States Men’s National Team may have been knocked out of the World Cup (and soccer stars Weston McKennie and Christian Pulisic attended Heat games recently), but Spoelstra will get a similar opportunity in the coming years.
The long-time Heat coach is an assistant coach for Team USA as they gear up for the FIBA World Cup next year and the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. He worked with Spurs coach Gregg Popovich by coaching the USA Select Team in preparation for the 2020 Summer Olympics (played in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic).
“He doesn’t need any advice from me,” Popovich said before Saturday’s game in Miami. “He was with us the whole time. He was somebody that had come in and be with us while we were preparing the team because I have so much respect for him. He was there with Steve [Kerr] and all the other guys that were in the program at the time. He’s well-experienced in what goes on and what you have to do. Hopefully, without COVID, things will be a lot easier to organize and get done but he’ll be a fantastic assistant for Steve.”
Spoelstra praises former Heat guard Josh Richardson
Former Heat guard Josh Richardson returned to Miami with the Spurs, and Spoelstra had kind words about his former player.
“He was such a great fit here,” Spoelstra said. “Those were some fun years, having J-Rich. It was kind of a turning of the page, a different chapter for our organization. He and Justise (Winslow) and Tyler Johnson, they brought this youthful exuberance. But they’re pros.
“They really worked on their player development. J-Rich is one of those good guys to have on your team. He’s a two-way player, got a great spirit, good attitude. He’s about the right things in this business.”
Richardson, who played four seasons with the Heat, was averaging 10.3 points, 2.9 assists and 2.2 rebounds for the Spurs entering Saturday.