Erik Spoelstra experimented with his lineup Sunday by starting center Greg Oden, but the Heat’s coach isn’t sure yet the change will be permanent.
Oden played the first six minutes of the first and second halves of the game and he finished with six rebounds. He went scoreless, shooting 0 of 2 from the field, and also committed four personal fouls.
Spoelstra was pleased with Oden’s contribution, but stopped short of declaring him a permanent starter.
“I liked what I saw today, but I’ll still have to give it some thought of whether or not we’ll move forward with it,” Spoelstra said.
It’s unlikely Oden will play in back-to-back games, according to Spoelstra, so establishing new rotations could be tricky.
Dwyane Wade said the Heat “isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel” this late in the season, but, if nothing else, starting Oden helped shake the Heat out of its current funk.
“When you go through a stretch like that, you try to evaluate everything ‘A’ to ‘Z’ — what you just need to do better and do harder — but everything ends up being on the table,” Spoelstra said. “This is a business of winning, so we looked at all the different layers.”
Spoelstra said Oden has been progressing steadily throughout the season, but finding consistent minutes for him in the rotation has been difficult. Starting Oden solves that problem.
“It has been a little awkward trying to work him into games at the end of the second quarter, and this guarantees it,” Spoelstra said. “That was the idea. To guarantee his minutes so he can get in a better rhythm and a better flow and can kind of wrap his mind around that.”
Before the game, Spoelstra said he wanted to get Oden “in the mix,” but the coach didn’t announce the lineup change during his pregame news conference.
“We want to get his rhythm,” Spoelstra said before the game. “He gives us something we don’t have that we know it is valuable to us. So any kind of minutes I can get him is good.”
Off the bench
With Oden in the starting lineup, Shane Battier came off the bench for the first time since Nov.3. He started the season with the team’s second unit before moving into the starting lineup for Udonis Haslem.
Meanwhile, Haslem hasn’t played meaningful minutes since January.
Battier had five points, going 1 of 2 from the field, 1 of 2 from three-point range and 2 of 3 from the free-throw line.
In an odd twist, his move to the bench actually increased his minutes from his final start. He played 11 minutes in the Heat’s loss to the Nuggets and more than 20 minutes of against the Rockets.
Batter said the strength of the Heat’s second unit is defense.
“It’s a good group,” Battier said.
“We’ve been trying to find the right combinations as a team, no question. Some have been successful and some haven’t, but we have confidence in that group that we can come in, and it might not be pretty offensively, but we feel we can make things happen defensively.”
Spoelstra has been emphasizing ball control for the past week and, despite some glaring exceptions, things finally settled down against the Rockets. The Heat committed 14 turnovers, which Houston converted into 14 points. LeBron James and Mario Chalmers each had five turnovers.
“We talk about it all the time,” Spoelstra said. “We are an attack team and you are going to have some mistakes here and there. We’ve had far too many unnecessary, mindless, lack of concentration or lack of fundamental turnovers.
“Every little detail matters right now, and sometimes that just means being OK with making the easy play while you’re still being aggressive.”