Miami Heat

Miami Heat becomes 'international team' as it deals with season of adversity

Michael Beasley of the Heat drives to the basket as the Phoenix Suns’ Marcus Morris defends at AmericanAirlines Arena on Monday, March 2, 2015.
Michael Beasley of the Heat drives to the basket as the Phoenix Suns’ Marcus Morris defends at AmericanAirlines Arena on Monday, March 2, 2015. el Nuevo Herald

Monthly rent starts at $690 for the townhomes in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where players Tyler Johnson and Henry Walker lived before joining the Heat this season.

Snow removal is included, of course, and the garages all open remotely, according to the website for Benson Village Townhomes. Understand, for a place where temperatures in the winter can fall below minus-20, that’s pretty important.

Also important: the townhomes seem strategically located near the Sioux Falls Regional Airport. Like, really close. As in, the runway is a few blocks away. The closer the better, considering how the Heat has had to fill its roster this season at a moment’s notice.

Sioux Falls is just one of the dots on the map linked to this Heat team pushing for a spot in the playoffs. Goran and brother Zoran Dragic were in Phoenix less than two weeks ago. Michael Beasley, now on his third stint with the Heat, was in China in February. Hassan Whiteside played in Lebanon last year before the Heat plucked him out of the D-League.

As Dwyane Wade likes to say, it’s a “man-made international team.”

“That’s what we are, so you when you’re just faced with what we’re faced with and you have no choice, you figure it out,” Wade said. “And we have no choice, so we’ve got to figure it out with these 20-odd games left to gain continuity and keep coming together.

“Myself and [Udonis Haslem], we have to lead like we never led before. I don’t know what this season is going to become, but I think it’s one of the greatest challenges of this organization and us as players who have been here to see if we can make something out of everything that’s happened.”

The Heat’s hodgepodge collection of D-League All-Stars, second-chance players and Beasley is a testament to how unpredictable an NBA season can turn for a team, but also an example of how a well-run franchise reacts to a series of unfortunate events.

LeBron James’ move back to Cleveland was preventable, to be sure, but probably not after the Heat lost to the San Antonio Spurs in the 2014 NBA Finals.

Since that time, the Heat’s front office, scouting department and coaches have responded time and again to difficult challenges with smart decisions and careful planning.

“I don’t know where’d we be without guys from the D-League or China,” Spoelstra said Tuesday, a practice day for the team. “Maybe we can start a team in China.”

Spoelstra was joking, but consider this for perspective: Johnson, Whiteside, and Beasley combined for 55 points Monday in the Heat’s victory against the Phoenix Suns. That was 48 percent of the team’s offense. Those three players combined are making $1,112,416 this season, which is close to 11/2 percent of the team’s total payroll.

That’s value and the result of hard work behind the scenes by the Heat’s developmental coaches and staffers.

Johnson is a product of the Heat’s scouting and player-development departments. Whiteside was a lucky get, but having full-time coaches and scouts in the D-League familiar with the players is the equivalent of making your own luck. Once in the Heat’s system and paired with assistant Juwan Howard, Whiteside has flourished. Beasley has been developing on and off in the Heat’s system for several years now.

“We need him right now,” Wade said of Beasley. “I can’t say that we’ve needed him as much as we’ve needed him right now, so hopefully he’s able to live up to his own expectations, and the expectations that’s put on him in this short amount of time.”

Beasley is a special case for the Heat. His old contract helped facilitate the LeBron Era, and now Beasley is back with the team as the Heat adapts to the league’s new age.

With the NBA economy shifting to favor small-market teams a few years ago, the Heat proactively decided to pump resources into the Sioux Falls Skyforce, a D-League team, to prepare the Heat for life with the league’s new collective bargaining agreement. The Heat and Skyforce forged a partnership that allowed the Heat to run the basketball side of the Skyforce franchise. The Heat would provide the coaches, scouts and assistant general manager Adam Simon.

The idea was that developing prospects familiar with the Heat’s system, terminology and team culture might prove valuable in the future. That foresight, of course, is now paying off better than expected.

The end product hasn’t always been pretty, but pretty doesn’t get you into playoffs in the Eastern Conference. The Heat (26-33) currently is seventh in the East with six teams separated by three games and fighting for the playoffs’ final two seeds.

Up next in what coach Erik Spoelstra has called “an extended March Madness” is a game against the floundering Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday at AmericanAirlines Arena. After that, the Heat has a chance to post a winning record over the next two weeks with games against the Wizards, Kings, Celtics, Nets and Raptors.

Despite all the adversity the Heat has endured, making the playoffs still seems doable.

“Lace ’em up and get to work,” Spoelstra said. “That’s how we’ve approached it.”

▪ Whiteside was fined $15,000 by the NBA on Tuesday for his altercation with Suns center Alex Len during Monday’s game. Len was fined $20,000. Neither Whiteside nor Len were suspended.

“It was about the fourth or fifth time I dunked on him,” Whiteside said of the incident, “and I feel like he was really frustrated. That’s what it was — it was just because I just kept dunking on him.”

▪ The Heat signed Walker to his second 10-day contract Tuesday.

Road map to success?

A look at the six players who have traveled a long way to help the Heat remake its roster:

Michael Beasley

Spent the beginning of the 2014-15 season with the Shanghai Sharks and averaged 27.1 points, 10.4 rebounds, 5.2 assists.

Goran/Zoran Dragic

Acquired via a three-team trade with the Suns on Feb. 19.

Tyler Johnson

Appeared in 15 NBA D-League games (all starts) with the Sioux Falls Skyforce this season.

Henry Walker

Appeared in 17 games (eight starts) with the Skyforce this season.

Hassan Whiteside

Was signed by the Heat as a free agent on Nov. 24, 2014.

Wednesday: Heat vs. Lakers

When/where: 8 p.m., AmericanAirlines Arena.

TV/radio: Sun Sports; ESPN; WAXY 104.3 FM, 790 AM and WAQI 710 AM (Spanish).

Series: Lakers lead 30-23.

Noteworthy: The Heat has won a franchise-best five consecutive games against the Lakers. Goran Dragic (back spasms) is probable.

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