Heat summer league

Miami Heat rookie Shabazz Napier taking slow start in stride

 
 
 <span class="cutline_leadin">Easing in:</span> Shabazz Napier (13) works to get around the Pacers' Dee Bost on Thursday.
Easing in: Shabazz Napier (13) works to get around the Pacers' Dee Bost on Thursday.
John Raoux / AP

jgoodman@MiamiHerald.com

LeBron James’ highly endorsed draft pick is going through a rough adjustment period during his first summer league season.

Shabazz Napier, the Heat’s 2014 first-round draft pick, used to get all of the calls. That was in college. But now Napier is having trouble just getting into the paint.

Napier is shooting 27.5 percent through four games at the NBA’s Orlando summer league, and that percentage includes a stunningly low 4 of 24 from three-point range. On Thursday, the Heat’s summer-league team lost to the Pacers’ summer-league squad 84-74, and Napier shot 2 of 13 from the field and 1 of 6 from three-point range.

To his credit, Napier isn’t taking the poor start to his professional career too seriously.

“I don’t get a lot of calls that I usually got in college, so that’s different. But other than that, it’s just basketball,” Napier said. “Once I get the feeling down, and once I start making shots, it makes it easier for my team. If I don’t make shots, it’s hard for my team to win games because I’m looked at as not a threat on the court. It’s tough, but I’m learning.”

Napier shot 42.9 percent his senior season, including greater than 40 percent from three-point range, so the Heat isn’t too worried about his difficult start in Orlando. The Heat plays Friday morning at Amway Center before boarding a plane to Las Vegas for another, larger summer league. Napier’s turnovers are trending downward in Orlando, and that’s what summer-league coach Dan Craig stressed after Thursday’s game.

“We’re still trying to get comfortable with each other offensively, and because of that we’re getting low in the shot clock, and we’re taking some shots — Shabazz in particular, he’s getting stuck taking some shots he probably doesn’t want to,” Craig said.

“But his turnovers have gone down every game. He had five assists and two turnovers [Thursday].”

“The main thing is, we’re just trying to fast-track them and get them NBA-ready and take that next step.”

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