Heat’s Spoelstra returns to address Butler’s desires, Lowry’s conditioning, Tucker’s exit – The Denver Post


In his first extended media session since the end of last season, Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra on Wednesday addressed Jimmy Butler’s preference not to play power forward, Kyle Lowry’s conditioning, and how the team will move forward after losing P.J. Tucker in free agency.

But first, after joining the team with training camp already under way at the Baha Mar resort, Spoelstra spoke of the reason for his late arrival, after Monday’s arrival of daughter Ruby Grace.

“It’s been pretty hectic,” he said with a smile of the birth of his third child, after coaching his team on the makeshift courts in the resort’s convention center. “But it’s obviously a beautiful time for our family and [we] feel very blessed.

“I spent a lot of time with the family the last couple of days. And then able to take a flight here and spend today with my Heat family, it’s the best of all worlds. I appreciate everything. And both mommy and daughter are doing great.”

Having also missed Monday’s media day at FTX Arena, it allowed Spoelstra to digest his players’ thoughts entering the season.

That included Butler expressing a desire not to be cast as the team’s starting power forward in light of Tucker leaving in free agency to the Philadelphia 76ers.

“I don’t think it would have worked for me just to say we’re doing it positionless,” Spoelstra said of his catchall for most questions regarding roles. “Jimmy’s too smart; he’ll figure that out. My thing with that is I would love to be able to, at some point, in Jimmy’s career, just start him at all five positions. . . .

“I’ve definitely played him at the four, and he’ll play some four this year, not likely starting him there. But, man, that’d be cool to start him at the four at some point, whether it’s this year or the future. And then, for sure, start him at the five.”

Also on Monday, Lowry bristled at Heat President Pat Riley having questioned Lowry’s conditioning last season.

Spoelstra said it was important to appreciate the time Lowry was away from the team last season tending to a family emergency.

“I love where Kyle is in camp right now. He’s ready to go,” Spoelstra said. “He’s leading. He’s in great shape. He’s in a great frame of mind, and I think it’s important for all of us to have a little bit of grace and empathy for everything that Kyle went through last year. But that’s last year.

“The most important thing for me is we have our Hall of Fame quarterback. He and I are really going to probably feel it the most this season. Myself and the coaching staff devising a system where we can take advantage of all the strengths of our players; our Hall of Fame quarterback distributing the basketball and keeping everybody happy and keeping everybody feeling like they’re eating. That’s why I’m so grateful that we have Kyle Lowry. That guy can do it.”

As for moving forward without Tucker, Spoelstra said it would have to be replacement by committee, with the only newcomer added to the primary roster being lithe first-round pick Nikola Jovic, the neophyte 19-year-old forward.

“I feel like we have the versatility to go a lot of different ways,” Spoelstra said. “We can go big, we can go small, we can go fast. Tuck brought a very unique skill set defensively with his size and his IQ. But it may have to look a little bit different.

“That’s where we want to be open to the possibilities and different lineups, different fits for that. Then, also, the voice and leadership piece defensively. Different guys are going to have to step up and fill in those gaps.”

Foremost, with 14 returning players, Spoelstra said there can’t be an attitude of picking up where the team left off with its loss in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals, that, instead, what is old has to become new again.

“I think one of the most important things that we have to think about is to start with a blank sheet of paper, to be open to how guys can be different, how rhythm can be different, based on different combinations,” he said. “I don’t want to assume anything.

“The connection piece and guys familiar, and there’s a continuity already in place, that certainly helps when you’re in practice. We’re not stopping quite as frequently to teach and go over the system. But each year is different. Last year was last year. And even though we’re bringing the majority of the guys back, I do want to be open-minded to how it can be different.”



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