Miami Heat veterans finding their niche
The Heat’s role-playing veterans knew their court time could be diminished when they signed their contracts to stay with the world champions.
02/06/2013 12:01 AM
09/23/2013 6:52 PM
Together, they have scored 28,232 points, drained 3,707 three-pointers and hit a ton of big shots.
But on perhaps the deepest Heat team in history, Mike Miller, Rashard Lewis and James Jones are essentially 10th through 13th men — center Joel Anthony is lumped in that group now, too — reduced to spare parts on a roster rich in shooters.
Lewis and Miller are sharing the 10th spot in Erik Spoelstra’s 10-man rotation, with Lewis usually getting the nod in recent games until Spoelstra chose to play neither Monday night against Charlotte.
Jones has been nearly invisible all season, playing 73 minutes and scoring 23 points.
The three skilled shooters “are good soldiers and very professional, but they’re pissed,” Dwyane Wade said good-naturedly.
“They want to play. You want guys like that. You don’t want guys who are just happy to be along for the ride. They understand when they signed up there’s a possibility this might occur.”
None have complained and all have handled their roles with class. Miller’s minutes have taken the biggest hit, largely because of the addition of Ray Allen, Spoelstra’s faith in Shane Battier, and Spoelstra’s decision to begin using Lewis again.
Miller played in 35 of the Heat’s first 37 games but appeared in just three of the past eight.
“It’s tough, but it’s part of being on this team,” said Miller, who is averaging a career-low 3.7 points on 40.3 percent shooting. “Some nights, you get four minutes. Some nights, you get 18. It’s not easy, but we’re all happy where we’re at.”
It would be very surprising if Miami does not use the amnesty clause on Miller next summer when the luxury tax becomes more punitive.
He’s due to earn $6.2 million in 2013-14 and will be paid in full even if he’s amnestied. Keeping him would cost the Heat more than $10 million in luxury tax payments, even beyond his salary.
Miller’s playoff success — including the seven three-pointers in the NBA Finals-clinching Game 5 against Oklahoma City — suggests Spoelstra might use him more in the postseason.
“If I can come out of any game where Mike’s healthy and rested, that’s a positive for us,” Spoelstra said.
Lewis was in the Heat’s rotation for Miami’s first 11 games but wasn’t used for 17 of the next 23.
He resurfaced during the Heat’s West Coast trip, first out of necessity when Battier missed three games. Averaging 5.0 points on 49 percent shooting for the season, Lewis has played in nine of the Heat’s past 11 games but has gotten just nine minutes over the past three.
“If we’re playing a little bit of a bigger team, it gives us a little more balance with that unit to [use] Rashard” instead of Miller, Spoelstra said.
When he signed a two-year, $2.8 million contract with Miami in July, “Rashard knew what he was getting into,” Spoelstra said. “Those were long meetings we had with Rashard and Ray Allen during the summer about nothing being guaranteed. All had the option not to come here.”
Even when he wasn’t playing, Lewis said, “I had a feeling I would get called again. I just didn’t know when. You don’t want to complain about minutes. When you are on a good team, you have to sacrifice.”
Jones plays the least of the group, which he knew might happen. Jones, who has a $1.5 million player option for next season, did not want to uproot his family and move out of Miami, where he grew up. And he relishes being a part of this team.
“Only so many can play,” he said. “It’s not due to lack of talent. I’m an idealist. I guess I’m crazy, but I always feel I can overcome all obstacles. I know it’s tough to find minutes here. But I’m playing with the game’s best players and won a championship.”
He said some fans tell him he should be playing more, “and I enjoy the conversations because it shows people are interested.”
Wade said the veterans who are playing talk to the veterans who aren’t, trying to keep their spirits high. “When you have a team like this with so many different parts, everyone at some point is going to become frustrated with their role,” he said. “We all do a good job of keeping each other uplifted.”
THIS AND THAT• Spoelstra is pleased with Chris Andersen — “he will play until his tank is absolutely empty” — but said Andersen is still working on conditioning.
“Right now, he is probably capable of eight minutes [at a time] at the pace he goes at,” Spoelstra said.• By shooting 13 for 14 on Monday, LeBron James (31 points) became the first player to miss no more than one field goal in a 30-point game since Dwight Howard went 11 for 11 in a game in February 2010.
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