The word on Kelly Olynyk’s left shoulder coming out of Heat practice Tuesday afternoon turned out to be relatively good news.
For now, the team is calling it a strain. X-rays taken Monday night were negative and coach Erik Spoelstra said there are no plans at the moment for Olynyk, who fractured the same shoulder as a high school junior, to have an MRI.
“Kelly didn’t practice today,” Spoelstra said. “He’s still very sore, but he was able to do treatment.”
Olynyk, who was reinserted into the starting lineup Saturday in Detroit, has only made 25 percent of the three-pointers he’s taken (15 of 60) over the last 12 games (the Heat has lost eight of those 12), but he’s been the Heat’s best player when it comes to advanced metrics. He’s a team-best plus 69 (24 points better than Justise Winslow who is next on the list) and No. 1 in net rating (plus-8.0).
While the Heat is listing Olynyk as questionable for Wednesday’s game against the Rockets (38-13), it appears Spoelstra has already moved ahead with contingency plans. He wants to see center Hassan Whiteside play a lot more alongside rookie Bam Adebayo.
“If you look at the summary of last night’s game in many ways two of our most impactful players last night were Hassan and Bam coming out of our frontcourt,” Spoelstra said Tuesday. “And that’s with Kelly out. But a lot of time Kelly is going to play 20, 25 minutes and James Johnson will play whatever minutes he plays so it’s going to force me to possibly think a little bit different with this team to see how to get both those guys more minutes and eventually more minutes together.
“I really liked the way Hassan played, the way he came out in the game with energy and Bam is becoming undeniable now. But both of them are forces for us and you have to look at in a different lens going forward... they're both playing very good basketball, very impactful basketball. I want to maximize that as much as possible.”
Whiteside and Adebayo have played a total of 36 minutes together this season. The Heat has been outscored by three points over the stretch. But Miami is 6-1 when they’ve played alongside each other on the court. The loss came Monday night when they played a minute and 13 seconds together.
Whiteside finished with 19 points and 14 rebounds in 22 minutes and 14 seconds in the loss to the Magic.
Adebayo had 18 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks in 26 minutes and 16 seconds off the bench in the same game.
“I think it would be great,” Whiteside said of a pairing with him and Adebayo in the starting lineup. “We both rebound at a high level, we block shots at a high level. Both of us can shoot. Bam can shoot better than people think he can shoot. He can go out to the three-point line, same goes for me. Either one of us, we can both shoot, so spacing will never be an issue. We’re really great defenders. So, I think it’s a great idea.”
Adebayo has been the Heat’s second-best defensive player behind Josh Richardson all season in terms of field goal differential (minus-4.9 percent). He’s been even better over the Heat’s last 12 games, holding the players he’s guarded to 37.1 percent shooting (minus-8.1 percent).
“I mean experience has helped him,” Spoelstra said of Adebayo’s improved defense of late. “He’s very studious. He’s dedicated every day and now he’s getting game reps. He gobbles up all that information.”
Whiteside said he and Adebayo have not practiced alongside together much. But Adebayo said it won’t be a problem sharing the floor with Whiteside and sliding over to power forward.
Said Adebayo: “Just having his athleticism and length and my athleticism and length, it help our changes.”
▪ The Heat said forward Justise Winslow left practice early Tuesday with a stomach ailment, but he’s expected to play Wednesday.
▪ Spoelstra believes the Heat’s struggles over the last dozen games have been defensive breakdowns.
“The crazy thing about this league is we’re not that far off from where we were before,” he said. “Six days ago we’re eight [games] above [.500] and playing for the third spot. Six days later all of a sudden it feels like the world is coming down. Three weeks, a month ago we’re in a lot of the same games, but we were winning these close games. The last nine games have been, quote unquote clutch games and we haven’t been able to get over the hump. So that’s why we’ve been focusing on improvement and getting better – trying to get our defense more consistent and see if we can make improvement in that way.”