How the Heat have mastered the NBA coach’s challenge game – The Denver Post


There is a method to the madness. But also make no mistake, there is madness.

Or, as Heat assistant coach Eric Glass says, “just a lot of different stuff flying at you in a short amount of time.”

Such is life with the NBA’s coach’s challenge, the rule added in 2019 that allows coaches once a game to challenge a foul, goaltend or out-of-bounds ruling, provided their team has a remaining timeout.

Based on the Heat’s success in such situations this season, a 6-0 record on challenges entering the weekend, it is a clear-cut process that only produces positive results.

It is, however, anything but, as Glass and coach Erik Spoelstra explained to the Sun Sentinel this past week.

The process is both orderly and chaotic: Whistle blows. Player insists he did nothing wrong, twirling a finger to mimic the coaching signal for replay. Spoelstra glances at his staff, particularly Glass, the former video coordinator, who handles replay review from behind the bench. All the while, the officiating staff prepares to resume play.

Unlike Major League Baseball, and its already leisurely pace, there is no pause to for coaches to consult for any tangible period with their staff.

“It feels like four seconds,” Glass says.

And yet, there also are Heat protocols in place, which adds the orderly element to the process that typically involves Glass and fellow assistant coaches Anthony Carter and Chris Quinn.

“Typically,” Glass says, “you’re at the mercy of replay. We have the iPad behind the bench that has the ESPN or Bally feed. So immediately myself and Anthony Carter will look at a play. We’re either trying to look at the live angle [from the in-house feed that constantly plays on the iPad], which I’d say 50-50 gives you an option of what it is, and then you’re just waiting for the [broadcast] replay to show up. And sometimes one of us will be looking at the Jumbotron; sometimes Quinny’s looking up there.

“So [on Wednesday] we looked at it live. They didn’t have a replay in time. And I just happened to peek up to the Jumbotron and I saw the play and I immediately yelled to Spo.

“So Spo’s kind of looking at us while we’re gauging it. The tough ones are where you don’t get a replay or a secondary angle. Because one angle could look like it’s easily one way and you look at another angle and all of a sudden it’s the opposite way. And you don’t always know how much time you have. Those moments get pretty stressful, especially late in the game. You’re just basically trying to go off what you have and make the best decision.”

But there also are qualifiers in place through unwritten team rules, which leads to a more orderly process. Foremost, unless review is clear-cut, there are no challenges if it involves spending the Heat’s final timeout.

“It depends on if I have that extra one,” Spoelstra says, with teams limited to two timeouts in the last three minutes. “The other night I had that extra one, so I was going to take it anyway. You might as well burn it. But I probably would have been a little bit more hesitant if we didn’t.”

In those cases, Glass says there essentially has to be unanimity for the assistants to insist on review.

“I will not recommend a challenge if we only have one timeout, unless I know I am dead on,” Glass says.

Then there is another type of pressure, a player insistent on a replay.

“Invariably, I’m getting at least two or three opinions from a player,” Spoelsta says. “And that’s where the trust comes in. If the player has a good track record with it, then they’ve earned a little bit more trust.

“And certainly I’m not quick to do that in the first three quarters, anyway, regardless of how egregious it may be. It just depends on the context of foul trouble, score, situation, etcetera.”

But there also are times when the review staff considers the consequences on a player, such as when Kyle Lowry was called for his fourth and fifth fouls early in the second half of Wednesday night’s victory over the Wizards.

“We looked at both Kyle’s fourth and fifth fouls, just because it was so early in the half,” Glass says, “and, all right, we might not win this one but it might be more important if we get lucky with one, stuff like that.”

That opportunity was bypassed.

Glass says prudence is required to keep the win percentage high, with no illusions of maintaining perfection.

“You try to give yourself the best chance of absolute clarity,” he says. “You’re putting yourself into an official’s mind, if you will, about the things that are super clear — goaltending, ball’s on the rim, steps out of bounds, little things like that. The subjective stuff is a little bit tricky at times.

“We try to take ones that are pretty cut and dry. And even then you don’t get all of those.”


STATE OF EAST: So where are the Heat and the rest of the East headed beyond the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks? Still too early to tell, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said just before his team reached the 20-game mark Friday. “I mean that’s the league,” Spoelstra said. “The East right now is extremely competitive. You have a bunch of teams that are kind of grouped together. We’re not 20 games into the season. You tend to have an idea at that point, some of the direction of the conference. But I don’t think we’re going to get that indication for a while. I think it’s going to be super competitive. There’s two teams that really kind of separated themselves early on.” The Heat face the Celtics on Wednesday and Friday nights, then are left with only a Jan. 24 meeting in Miami to close out the four-game season series. The Heat and Bucks have yet to open their four-game season series, to meet the first time on Jan. 12 in Miami.

PATIENCE PREACHED: During the Heat’s Monday visit to Minnesota, Spoelstra said the outside expectations of instant gratification over the offseason addition of Rudy Gobert have been over the top. “Yeah, this league and probably every professional league and so much of society right now is a microwave,” Spoelstra said. “People want the results right now, and that’s just not typically how things work, good things. You have to build a foundation, have to build habits, trust. These things take time, and oftentimes you have to go through some adversity together just to see how everybody responds.” The Timberwolves went into the weekend at 10-8.

“JUST STAY HOME”: With Gobert going without a shot in that victory over the Heat, and with his only points coming on four free throws in the game’s final 71 seconds, part of the evening was plays with boos raining down at Target Center on the former Utah Jazz center who was acquired at the price of five first-round picks. To that, Gobert offered a sharp postgame rebuke. “I just don’t appreciate people that come in to boo your team,” the French 7-footer said. “When you’re a fan, you’ve got to support your team in the tough or the good moments. There’s no team in NBA history that only had good moments. So if you’re not going to support us in the tough moments, just stay home. I think if you’re going to embrace us in the tough moments, then come and then we’re going to love the support.”

STAND BY YOUR MEN: A constant with former Heat forward Markieff Morris is that he stands by his teammates no matter where he is playing. Lately that has meant standing by Brooklyn Nets teammate Ben Simmons, who has been uneven with his play after sitting out last season due to injury and other factors. Eventually enough was enough for Morris when it came to the Simmons criticism. “He finally got his legs under him. He was off for two years. Y’all wouldn’t give him a chance, y’all want to criticize him after every . . . game . . . ‚” Morris said, using the same extreme profanity before and after the word “game.” Morris, who left the Heat in free agency for a minimum deal with the Nets, continued, “But when a guy don’t play two years — because obviously y’all wouldn’t know because none of y’all played in the NBA, he had to get his body right. Contact every night. He’s playing 30-plus minutes. It takes time.” The first game of the Heat’s three-game season series against the Nets is Jan. 8 in Miami.


4. Consecutive scoreless games by former Heat forward P.J. Tucker with the Philadelphia 76ers before scoring three points in Wednesday night’s loss to the Charlotte Hornets. Tucker, who left in the offseason in free agency, had four scoreless games last season in his 72 appearances in his lone year with the Heat.



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