Erik Spoelstra finally had a decision to make about which of his 14 healthy players he would have to make inactive on Tuesday night against the Philadelphia 76ers.
With Kelly Olynyk ending a six-game absence due to a shoulder strain, and Rodney McGruder active for the first time this season, Spoelstra had an easy choice for one with Dion Waiters out with season-ending ankle surgery. Jordan Mickey, who has played in only 18 games this season but only twice in the past 22 games, was the other inactive player.
Spoelstra is now left with another ongoing decision - how to distribute minutes.
“I want to be mindful and empathetic to each player and their ambition and how they all want to contribute to this team, but like we say around here all the time, the main thing is the main thing,” Spoelstra said. “There’s not a whole lot of time to try and focus on making people happy. That’s not what this is about. This is about contribute to whatever your role might be and that might not be concrete right now. We have to move right now. There’s no time to mess around or walk on egg shells and have people be bent out of shape about minutes. There’s no time for that right now.”
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Spoelstra said Olynyk likely won’t play a large amount of minutes as his shoulder is still not 100 percent.
“We’re all excited about hopefully getting him back in the mix,” Spoelstra said. “We look different when he’s out there. So many of the strengths we have right now, the versatility, he just adds to all of that. He has a way of making things look better when he’s out there on both ends of the court.”
Olynyk is averaging 11.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game and shooting 49.5 percent in 23.4 minutes per game this season. He is still the Heat’s leader in plus/minus (1.9) and offensive rating (107.8).
Olynyk has helped the Heat on the offensive end when paired with the Heat’s other two regular centers Hassan Whiteside and Bam Adebayo.
Olynyk has been on the court together with Hassan Whiteside in 16 games this season and the two have averaged 20.6 points in 9.6 minutes during that span despite a minus-1.8 plus/minus rating. In 30 games, he’s played side-by-side with Bam Adebayo they’ve averaged 27.8 points in 13.2 minutes with a 2.1 plus/minus.
“He’s a great playmaker for us, he makes outside shots, he stretches the floor, he talks, he understands time and score, and pace and all that,” Josh Richardson said. “If he comes back, it’s a huge lift for us.”
Spoelstra said McGruder, who rejoined the team on Tuesday after spending four days with the Heat’s G League team, Sioux Falls and playing two games in Los Angeles, would be in uniform, but wasn’t sure if he’d play on Tuesday night.
McGruder, 26, had been sidelined the entire season since having left tibia surgery in October. Last season, McGruder averaged 6.4 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 78 games for the Heat.
McGruder said he arrived from L.A. at around 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday after taking a red-eye flight.
“Players and different body types will heal on their own time,” Spoelstra said. “You can’t necessarily compare the same injury to somebody else because your body is your own. We just wanted to monitor him and he was always pushing the envelope so sometimes we wanted to put the reins on and just making sure he was going methodically through that process, and then he’s here and you realize time moves. I’m sure it was tough dealing with it. He passed all those hurdles and now he’s available and there’s a lot of time left in the season.”
In addition to his games with the Skyforce, McGruder participated in two full practices.
In his two games, McGruder played 44 minutes and finished with a combined 27 points on 13 of 30 shooting (1 of 11 from three-point range), 10 rebounds, two assists in 44 minutes.
“He was able to go four straight days with a good deal of work,” Spoelstra said. “He had two rock-solid, 5 on 5 scrimmage practice days and two games where the first one, he played about 20 minutes. Then we were able to scale him up to almost 25 minutes last night and everything was fine. He was feeling great and able to do all that work without a problem.”