Miami Heat

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra empathizes with Hornets coach recovering from health issue

Charlotte Hornets head coach Steve Clifford returned to the sidelines on Wednesday after missing 21 games due to health issues. The Heat will face the Hornets on Saturday in Charlotte. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Charlotte Hornets head coach Steve Clifford returned to the sidelines on Wednesday after missing 21 games due to health issues. The Heat will face the Hornets on Saturday in Charlotte. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton) AP

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is glad he’ll be matching wits once again with Hornets coach Steve Clifford on Saturday night when Miami continues its road trip in Charlotte.

Clifford, who returned to the sidelines on Wednesday after missing Charlotte’s previous 21 games with health issues.

Clifford, 56, was forced to take a medical leave of absence recently due to recurring headaches caused by sleep deprivation.

Clifford returned to work on Tuesday when the Hornets practiced a day before scoring a season-high 133 points in a win over the Wizards.

Clifford told the Associated Press in a recent interview that he felt rested and plans to delegate more of his coaching duties to his assistants going forward. The Hornets (18-25), who are in 11th place in the Eastern Conference standings, went 9-12 during Clifford’s absence.

Spoelstra expressed empathy for one of the more liked members of the NBA’s coaching fraternity.

“It’s great [that he’s back], and we texted this week,” Spoelstra said. “That’s scary. There’s a great deal of stress to this position so all the coaches empathize with what we’re going through. It’s a great opportunity and none of us take it for granted, but it also reminds us you have to be very intentional about taking care of yourself.

“I’ve gone down that road and we’re not perfect. I think all of our defaults is to become more obsessive and a lot of times that’s counterproductive so it’s a really difficult thing to fight against but we’re all thrilled to have him back out there and you could see the team felt great about it to in just how well they played.”

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