Before they open the preseason Tuesday night in Washington, and coach Erik Spoelstra begins trying to figure out how to replace Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in his starting lineup, the Heat players will put basketball to the side and discuss how they plan to express themselves during the national anthem and beyond when it comes to taking a stand against social injustice.
“We’re going to meet about it as an organization and talk about the issues and what guys feel about it and then work a course of action we can try to do to make a difference,” Spoelstra said Monday before the team left its AmericanAirlines Arena practice court for the airport.
“We’re not necessarily focusing on the national anthem. It’s a social issue. First, the disgust and feeling everybody has in the locker room about what we’re seeing. Then, the second thing is what kind of action we can take to really make a difference. Doing something for the anthem raises awareness. But as an organization and what [owner] Micky [Arison] and [president] Pat [Riley] and myself have talked about is what kind of action can we take to really make a difference.”
There has been a lot of speculation about the approach NBA players and teams would take to the national anthem in light of the protest San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began a couple months ago when he and a few teammates began taking a knee during the anthem. Several other NFL players, including members of the Miami Dolphins, have joined in.
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On Saturday, in their preseason opener, the Toronto Raptors stood with their arms locked during both “Oh, Canada” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Whatever the Heat decides to do, captain Udonis Haslem said the goal is not to disrespect anybody and to put on a united front as a team.
“Obviously, there’s a lot going on right now — things that need to change,” Haslem said. “I think everybody has to take part in helping. But there’s a right and wrong way to do it. So we’re going to come into it collectively and figure out the right way to get our point across without being disrespectful to anybody or to the flag or anything like that.”
Spoelstra said what’s happened across the country has sparked “a needed dialogue,” and that Heat players “do want to take action.”
Guard Tyler Johnson, whose mother serves in the Air Force, believes it’s best for players “to be on the same page” when it comes to sharing their feelings.
“I think that’s the best way to do it,” Johnson said. “I’m sure guys have different feelings. Ever since that whole thing kind of happened everybody has had their own opinion on what that means. But I do think it’s important for the whole team to be on the same page on what exactly we’re doing. If anybody on this team had their own ideas of what they wanted to do for the national anthem, I don’t have to have a say in it.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ Spoelstra said he doesn’t anticipate any players playing more than 20 minutes in Tuesday’s preseason opener.
“We’ll have to evaluate and get guys in there,” he said. “I also won’t be able to play everybody. That’s pretty obvious as well. How I work that out, I’m not totally sure yet.”
Spoelstra said his goal ultimately is to get a look at different rotations, and to give units a chance to build chemistry and rhythm.
“We’ll have some opportunities to play different lineups and get deep into the rotation, particularly on the back-to-backs,” he said.
▪ Guard Josh Richardson (sprained MCL), forward Josh McRoberts (foot) and forward Stefan Jankovic (knee) will not play Tuesday.
▪ Spoelstra said he has an idea of what his 10-man rotation looks like, but he wants to use every game of the preseason to evaluate it.
What does he want to see in the battle for the starting power forward position?
“It’s going to be different things with different guys,” he said. “When Luke [Babbitt] is there, he’s spacing the floor, and I want to him have an absolute green light.
“But Derrick [Williams] has a different skill set. He can knock down threes. But he’s an aggressive player that’s really effective in the paint. James [Johnson] brings a different dynamic when he’s there in terms of his ability to play-make, similar to the way Justise [Winslow] does.”