Take a look at the Miami Heat’s coaching staff and basketball operations department, and you’ll find familiar names.
Former Heat players Juwan Howard, Chris Quinn and Anthony Carter are coaches, and Alonzo Mourning, Keith Askins and Glen Rice are on the basketball operations side. That trend carries over to the Heat’s roster, too.
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Miami’s 20-man preseason roster includes 14 players from last season’s team, and the remaining six aren’t all newcomers. Guards Briante Weber and DeAndre Liggins, and forward Jarnell Stokes have all spent time with the Heat organization before.
The trio was part of the Heat’s developmental-league affiliate, the G League Sioux Falls Skyforce, when it won the championship in 2016 under current Heat assistant coach Dan Craig.
“We feel very grateful that we have an organization that believes in that type of consistency and continuity,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said in advance of Monday’s home preseason game against the Orlando Magic. “We’ve developed relationships that transcend the business. Things are going to happen in this league. Players are moved, coaches move on. The rate of transition now is much more than it used to be, certainly even when I first started as a head coach.
“So, you could be a cynic and say, ‘Hey, this is a business. You can’t trust anybody.’ Or you make the most of your situations and you find places that you can have a great experience, and develop some unbelievable life lasting relationships. That’s what we like to try to provide for players that we feel fit our type of fabric and that’s what you’ve seen over the years.”
Weber, Liggins and Stokes could end up back with the Skyforce this season, but there’s also an open spot on the Heat’s regular-season roster they are working to earn. Miami doesn’t have to fill the opening since it’s already committed to 14 guaranteed contracts, but the opportunity to make an NBA team isn’t the only reason these players decided to return to the Heat.
“They knew who I was,” said Weber, who first signed with the Heat on Oct. 19, 2015 and has since re-signed with the team three more times. “They know this is the style of play I’m comfortable in and I can grow in. With me just coming back and being able to be myself and continue to be an NBA player and to grow offensive wise and understand the game more, that’s why I came back.”
Liggins, a two-time NBA G League Defensive Player of the Year, signed with the Heat on Sunday. He spent time with the Skyforce from 2013-16, and played one regular-season game in a Heat uniform for a total of one minute on March 3, 2014.
“That’s the Heat culture,” Liggins said when asked if his defensive ability makes him a natural fit with the Heat. “They’re a grit-and-grind organization, and they build and take pride in defense.”
The Heat also takes pride in sticking with players who have been through its system.
“We’ve developed players and you develop strong bonds,” Spoelstra said. “If you think they fit and they end up moving on, we’re happy for them. If we have a chance to get them back, we want them. If we can’t bring them back during their playing career, then we want to bring them back on the staff one way or another.”
Josh Richardson made his preseason debut Monday against the Magic after missing the first three games with a left thigh contusion. He was in Miami’s starting lineup with Goran Dragic, Justise Winslow, Kelly Olynyk and Hassan Whiteside.
Despite being listed as doubtful on the Heat’s injury report to start the day, Bam Adebayo was also available for Monday’s contest. He missed the first three preseason games with a right AC joint sprain.
Wayne Ellington (left ankle soreness), Derrick Jones Jr. (bruised right shoulder), Dion Waiters (left ankle surgery) and James Johnson (sports hernia surgery) were held out against Orlando.
James Jones takes over
The Phoenix Suns announced Monday that former Heat player James Jones will manage basketball operations including oversight of coaches, players and staff on an interim basis after Ryan McDonough was relived of his role as general manager. The team said that assistant general manager Trevor Bukstein will be the primary contact for player transactions.
Jones, a South Florida native who also played for the Miami Hurricanes, won two NBA championships with the Heat in 2012 and 2013.