Summer League | Celtics 85, Heat 77

Shabazz Napier eyes ‘big adjustment’ to NBA after Miami Heat’s summer league loss to Boston Celtics

 

Special to the Miami Herald

This is why they conduct summer league.

Shabazz Napier’s first pass wearing a Heat uniform was swooped upon by Boston hopeful Colton Iverson, who took it the length of the court for an easy layup.

It was the first of three turnovers Napier committed in the first eight minutes. By halftime, the stat sheet showed the Heat’s first-round draft pick with a fourth turnover, one assist and an 0-for-8 shooting performance.

This is also why they conduct summer league: An eight-point burst over 3 1/2 minutes of the fourth quarter, helping the Heat roar back from a six-point deficit before eventually succumbing to the Celtics 85-77.

“I definitely needed this one to understand the game much better,” Napier said afterward. “It’s a big adjustment, but I’m looking forward to it.”

It was a day of mixed reviews for Napier, who earned LeBron James’ admiration as he led UConn to the NCAA title three months ago. Despite his rough introduction, his resilience and ability to adjust were on display after halftime.

“As he settled into the game, I thought he did a good job of adjusting,” said Dan Craig, the Heat’s player development chief and coach of the summer roster.

“He’s headstrong and if he makes a mistake he’s on to the next play, which is great. I haven’t seen much carryover with him getting down on himself. He usually bounces right back, and he picks his teammates up, too.”

Napier finished with 12 points in a team-high 34 minutes, trailing only James Ennis (18 points) and Justin Hamilton (13) in the scoring column. His first field goal didn't come until a three-pointer with 8:55 left in the fourth, though he followed quickly with a fast-break layup and another trey.

It added up to a 3-for-15 shooting afternoon. Of greater concern, though, was his eight turnovers — one-third of the Heat’s team total (24).

Even in summer league, it’s a different game. Nor had Napier played any competitive basketball since UConn beat Kentucky for the NCAA crown.

“I was unable to do a lot of things I did in college as far as passes,” said Napier, who had just two assists. “I’m going to have to learn how to adjust and make those certain passes on an NBA level. That’s the learning curve.”

Take the Heat’s first offensive sequence. Standing above the three-point line, Napier tried to feed Hamilton on the block but the pass floated. Iverson cut in front and was off to the races.

“I didn’t know I threw a loose pass. I thought it was a regular pass,” Napier said. “Those are the things I’ve got to learn, make sure the pass is there.”

Said Craig: “You’re trying to perform at a high level and at times I thought he sped himself up. That’s one thing we’ve been talking about — slow down, let the defense make the mistake, make the easy play.”

Further complicating the matter was Boston came at Napier with a pair of high-energy guards in former Missouri standout Phil Pressey — whose father, Paul, twice made the All-NBA defensive team — and first-round pick Marcus Smart.

“They did pick him up a little bit and pressure him,” Craig said, “but I think he got himself into trouble more than they got him into trouble.”

Regardless, the performance will give Napier plenty to study as he prepares for Sunday night’s second act against Brooklyn. The Nets rolled Indiana’s hopefuls 101-81 in their summer opener.

“One thing I do is try to watch as much tape as I can,” Napier said. “This being my first game at the next level, it’s something I’m going to watch a lot.

“I think I’m going to learn from what I’ve done wrong here and work on it. Just continue to adjust to the game and understand what I can do and try to get better at it. At the end of the day, that’s all I can really do.”

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