James Ennis shines, Shabazz Napier rebounds from shaky outing in Miami Heat’s second summer league contest


Special to the Miami Herald

While Heat waits for its real Big 3 to decide on their basketball futures, there’s a fairly entertaining Big 3 coming together in the summer league.

Someone has to take those secondary roster spots, and James Ennis and Justin Hamilton — plus top draft pick Shabazz Napier — just might be useful in this summer’s roster puzzle.

“I was here last year, so I’ve got that experience,” Ennis said after Sunday night’s 29-point outburst powered the Heat to a 110-91 romp over Brooklyn.

“I’ve been working on my shot a lot while I was overseas. It just feels good to see the ball go in the basket. I’m thankful for all that.”

Napier, meanwhile, bounced back from his wobbly debut to put up 17 points and seven assists. And the 7-foot Hamilton continued to show good things both inside and outside, as he tallied 15 points and nine rebounds.

The Heat (1-1) scored 17 of the game’s first 25 points, led 30-17 after one quarter and outscored the Nets in each of the other three quarters.

“I thought the guys really competed [Sunday night],” said Dan Craig, who heads the summer coaching staff.

“We were just trying to defend and share the ball, and we wound up having 25 assists. Shabazz came in and set a great pace — just making the easy play, getting off the ball, finding our shooters. And, obviously, James shot the ball great.”

Ennis, a second-round pick last year who led the Perth Wildcats to the Australian crown, knocked down 10 of 12 shots. Seven of those were from three-point range, including a trio in the first three minutes of the third quarter.

The Long Beach State product also showed a nice mid-range jumper in addition to the dunks he is better known for.

“Most of the time, James will get himself a shot,” Napier said. “He makes it so much easier for myself [as a point guard], as well as him. It means so much for me to play with guys like that.”

Ennis also led the Heat with 18 points in its summer opener against Boston. Among the six Orlando Pro Summer League teams that have played more than one game, his 23.5 average ranks second only behind Detroit’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (28.0).

Hamilton turned in his second solid game, making six of his 12 shots from the floor and going strong to both boards. That followed a 13-point effort against Boston, with Craig noting that both games came against players — the Nets’ Mason Plumlee and Celtics’ Kelly Olynyk — that were part of their team’s rotation.

“He looks skilled out there,” Craig said, “and he’s doing what we’re asking of him.”

Napier, who admitted to nerves before Saturday’s pro debut, settled down nicely in his second effort. Instead of waiting until the fourth quarter to record his first points, Sunday required just 25 seconds before he knocked down a 15-foot jumper.

The former UConn standout went 6 of 12 from the floor, hitting one of his four attempts from three-point range. More importantly, he cut his turnovers nearly in half (eight to five) and more than tripled his assists.

“My turnovers [Sunday] weren’t necessarily better,” Napier said, “but [Saturday’s] turnovers seemed like I was just throwing the ball away. [Sunday’s] turnovers seemed like I’d found the groove and just mishandled a play.”

Craig said: “That’s probably the most difficult position to transition into, that point guard position. The rules are different, the game’s faster, the shot clock doesn’t give you as much time. It’s just the pace of everything. I think he did a great job of really slowing it down.”

The Heat will take Monday off before squaring off against Detroit in the third of five OPSL contests.

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