With Bam Adebayo and James Johnson on the injury list to start the preseason, Erik Spoelstra has used it as an opportunity to play centers Kelly Olynyk and Hassan Whiteside together.
Through the first two preseason games entering Friday’s contest against the Washington Wizards, Olynyk and Whiteside have combined to play about 22 minutes together. The Miami Heat has outscored its opponent by four points in that time.
That’s encouraging for Miami, considering this combination didn’t produce positive results last season. The Heat was outscored by 12 points in the 186 minutes the pair of 7-footers played next to each other.
“Their games complement each other,” Spoelstra said in advance of the Heat’s game in Washington. “K.O.’s skill level on the perimeter, his passing ability helps Hassan. Hassan’s physicality and presence defensively on the rim helps KO with those perimeter matchups. But for short stints it’s something I’m certainly looking at, exploring.”
Why just short stints?
“We have a lot of guys to play, so I still have to figure that out,” Spoelstra said. “Ultimately the league is fast, and our ability to play to our strengths vs. speed and space is something we’ll have to be mindful of.”
The biggest issue with playing Olynyk and Whiteside together is on the defensive end, with Olynyk forced to guard power forwards who are usually more athletic than he is.
But Olynyk and Whiteside are confident they can hold their own against most lineups and present matchup problems of their own.
“I tell Kelly all the time, I love playing with Kelly,” Whiteside said. “I wish I could have him in my pickup games and street ball. Wherever he wants to be teammates at, we can do it. I love playing with Kelly.
“K.O., he’s lighter man, he’s 235, he’s moving well, I’m moving well. So we feel good. I think we can guard any of those lineups.”
UD talks Pitbull and Gainesville
Pitbull, a rapper from Miami, made an appearance at the University of Florida this week for a speaking engagement on campus for Hispanic Heritage Month, and he received two Gators jerseys in the process.
“You’re going to get me in trouble in Miami!” laughed Pitbull in a video posted to Twitter by the Florida Gators.
“I want to say thank you very much. I appreciate it. As a Miami boy, I have a whole lot of respect for UD [former Gator and current Heat forward Udonis Haslem]. He was a Gator, so UD look at me, I’m playing for the Gators!”
Haslem was asked about Pitbull’s trip to UF, and apparently they’ve discussed Gainesville before.
“There is a Miami Grill that he owns in Gainesville, so we’ve had some talks about me being involved with some of those projects,” Haslem said. “But also before that, I’ve known Pit for many, many years before any one of us had money. It’s always good to see somebody come up the same way you come up and to be successful.”
Haslem is familiar with the feeling of getting caught in between the Gators-Hurricanes rivalry. Haslem played college basketball for the Gators, but roots for his hometown Hurricanes when it comes to college football.
“I’m always going to be a Gator,” Haslem said. “I’m always going to have love for the Gators. I’ve been fortunate enough that UM football and Gators football don’t really match up often. But I’m always going to be a Gator. I’m always going to be grateful for the four years I had there. There’s no way I’m standing here today and had the success and career I’ve had if I didn’t spend those four years at Florida. So Florida first. But it’s always going to be Hurricanes football.”
Dion Waiters (left ankle surgery), Marcus Lee (right knee injury), Derrick Jones Jr. (bruised right shoulder), James Johnson (sports hernia surgery), Bam Adebayo (right AC joint sprain), Tyler Johnson (migraine) and Wayne Ellington (left ankle soreness) sat out against the Wizards.
In addition, Josh Richardson did not play as he missed his third consecutive preseason game with a left thigh contusion. He was on track to make his return in Washington, as Spoelstra said about an hour before tipoff: “We haven’t gotten the official word, but [Richardson] went through practice yesterday and he’s going to warm up. If he’s close to 100 percent, he’ll play. If it’s still giving him a little bit of tightness or bothering him, we’ll wait until Monday.”
It turns out the Heat will have to wait at least one more game.
Ellington is also hopeful he’ll be able to make his preseason debut in Monday’s home game against the Orlando Magic after missing each of the first three preseason games. An MRI and X-ray on Ellington’s ankle returned negative.
“Definitely getting close,” Ellington said when asked when he will return. “Been feeling better every day, so making a whole lot of progress. At this point, it’s more about taking the right steps to make sure when I get back that nothing else bothers me.”