Heat president Pat Riley gave his coaching staff six natural power-rotation players this season — all with quality résumés, albeit a brief one in Hassan Whiteside’s case.
But though Amar’e Stoudemire has played more recently, coach Erik Spoelstra overall has made sporadic use of half of those six big men — Stoudemire, Udonis Haslem and Chris Andersen.
And another, Josh McRoberts, has missed 17 consecutive games with a bruised right knee, with no set timetable for his return.
The modest playing time for the Heat’s backup big men is largely the byproduct of the evolution of today’s NBA game, with more and more teams playing small, and the Heat often using Luol Deng or even Justise Winslow at power forward.
Andersen has played the fewest minutes of the three — just 33 — but hasn’t complained. He said he and Spoelstra have “had several conversations,” but he has not asked for a trade “and we’re both understanding of what my role is.”
Andersen — who is shooting 3 for 9, with 10 points, eight rebounds and two blocks in six games — said the limited role is “tough, but I still have a lot in the tank to provide. My role is to contribute with actions and experience. I will embrace it. I am a highly competitive warrior.”
The Heat would be interested in moving Andersen’s $5 million salary to substantially lessen its luxury-tax burden. But the Heat hasn’t found a taker, and Andersen said he knows “it’s not personal.”
Stoudemire has played the most of the three recently and made clear last week that he’s hoping for a regular role and that he’s completely healthy.
After playing in only three of the Heat’s first 27 games, Stoudemire appeared in seven of the past nine entering Saturday’s game in Utah.
He’s still trying to work off “offensive rust and work on my timing and getting used to playing this speed again. Hopefully, I can start getting some consistent play.”
Stoudemire, in 101 minutes over nine games, is shooting 9 for 22, with 27 points and 24 rebounds.
But he had three blocks Friday against Phoenix and the player he’s guarding this season is shooting 44.2 percent, compared with 45.9 overall.
“He has given us good minutes that don’t necessarily show up in the boxscore,” Spoelstra said. “[Against Phoenix], it was on the defensive end.”
Haslem said he’s enjoying his role “mentoring these guys. But you always want to play. If I start losing that, I might as well retire.
“I would have loved to have been in that Eastern Conference battle with Indiana, but I also understand what coach is doing, that we have a lot of guys we’re molding, and there’s a lot of ways I can help besides being on the court.”
Haslem, in 134 minutes over 16 games, is shooting 39 percent (11 for 28), and the player he’s guarding is shooting 51.2 percent (22 of 43), well above the 43.7 percent that those players generally shoot.
Though it’s a small sample size, the Heat entered Saturday having been outscored by 20 with Andersen in the game, by 10 with Stoudemire and by four with Haslem on the floor.
“We consider the practices our games,” Haslem said. “Before games, we go upstairs and play two on two to keep ourselves in shape. We understand it’s a young man’s game.”
Guard Tyler Johnson on Saturday was expected to miss his ninth game with a strained left shoulder, an injury that has bothered him since December. But Spoelstra and Johnson said the Heat will continue to treat the ailment with rest and rehabilitation, not a surgical procedure.
Johnson said having the arthroscopic surgery during the season has “crossed my mind” but deemed it unlikely, saying the condition has improved, and he needs to give it rest when it flares up.
He said recovery time for surgery is two months. “It has gotten a lot better,” he said, expressing optimism he would play Monday at Golden State.
Johnson missed three games with the strained shoulder last month, returned for one, missed another five with the shoulder, then played in the past seven before again feeling discomfort in the shoulder Wednesday against the Knicks. He said it wasn’t smart to attempt to play through the injury Friday in Phoenix.