With the Heat closing training camp Saturday, less than three weeks remain before the Oct. 23 season opener.
Miami begins its five-game preseason schedule Tuesday against the Spurs. But before that, the Heat held its Red, White & Pink intrasquad scrimmage Sunday at AmericanAirlines Arena to raise money for the Miami Cancer Institute.
The game didn’t feature a final score, as players switched between teams throughout the four quarters. The significance of the event was obvious, though, with Heat players walking out with breast cancer survivors during introductions.
“It hits home for our organization and so many people out there,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “You either have somebody in your family or you know somebody who has been stricken by this type of cancer. In our organization, it really hits home because we have several wives and mothers that are survivors. So it’s something that we always really love to be able to celebrate, and also let everybody know that we’re still thinking about the ones that are battling this right now.
“It’s so important to us that we met about it as a team beforehand, particularly for the new players to understand why we do this and what a special night it is.”
Here are some notes and observations from the scrimmage:
▪ Jimmy Butler was aggressive from the start, recording six points, five rebounds and three assists in the first quarter. The Heat’s new leading man finished with nine points on 3-of-3 shooting, five rebounds and five assists in limited minutes.
It didn’t take long for Heat fans to express their feeling for Butler, as “We love Jimmy” chants broke out in the first quarter.
“I think the fan base feels the same way we do about Jimmy,” Spoelstra said. “We just feel that he has Heat DNA, that he was meant to play here and meant to put on a Miami Heat uniform. He has a magnetic personality that the fan base is really going to enjoy, and he’s a very good basketball player. At the end of the day, he’s a throwback. He’s a two-way player. He makes the game easier for other guys, and that’s what you want star players to do.”
Butler’s versatility on the wing was on display, with his playmaking and scoring ability helping to generate offense for the Heat. He also found easy baskets by jumping into the passing lanes and turning steals into transition points.
“He’s competitive. He does it every day. He wants to lead,” Heat big man Meyers Leonard said of Butler. “I think that’s the important thing. Jimmy is obviously very, very talented. But he understands that he’s our guy.”
▪ Justise Winslow has made it clear he wants to play with the ball in his hands, specifically as a point guard. Winslow got that opportunity Sunday, finishing with 11 points on 3-of-4 shooting from the field and 2-of-2 shooting on threes, four rebounds and four assists. He was used in an on-ball role for most of the scrimmage.
For most of Winslow’s minutes, veteran Goran Dragic was opposite of Winslow as the other team’s point guard. Dragic, 33, ended the scrimmage with two points on 1-of-4 shooting and two assists.
Dragic, who was held out of one practice and limited in another during training camp as a precaution, played in a career-low 36 games last season due to right knee surgery. Dragic has been the Heat’s starting point guard, when healthy, since he was traded to Miami in the middle of the 2014-15 season.
While there is the possibility that Dragic and Winslow could start together for the Heat, there’s also the possibility that a decision will have to be made between the two.
▪ Bam Adebayo, who is stepping into the role of starting center, finished with 14 points, four rebounds and two assists.
Along with Adebayo’s usual points around the basket, he also took a few midrange shots. Adebayo worked to refine his outside shot this summer, so it will be interesting to see how many he takes (and makes) in the preseason.
▪ Guard Dion Waiters, who dropped 15 pounds this summer, contributed 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting and five assists.
Ankle surgery forced him to miss the first 35 games of last season, but Waiters looks to be in shape and healthy entering this season. He showed a quick first step and was able to consistently get into the paint off the dribble in the scrimmage, which is a big part of Waiters’ game.
▪ The Heat’s two 2019 draft picks had their moments.
Guard Tyler Herro, who was taken with the No. 13 overall pick, finished with 16 points while shooting 6-of-14 from the field and 3-of-6 from three-point range, five rebounds and six assists.
Forward KZ Okpala, who was a second-round pick, posted a stat line of seven points, five rebounds and two assists.
▪ Leonard, who the Heat acquired in a trade this summer, was sharp from outside. The 7-1 Leonard finished with 16 points and four rebounds, and shot 4 of 7 on threes.
“We shot a lot of threes, which the NBA loves these days,” Winslow said. “Just having Meyers, a big that can stretch the floor and really shoot it. I think that’s going to help us a lot.”
▪ Forward James Johnson remained away from the Heat for Sunday’s scrimmage, as he works to get to his pre-set weight goal from the team. Johnson missed the entire week of training camp after being informed Monday that he wouldn’t be permitted to practice with the team until he reached a certain weight.
Center Kelly Olynyk was also held out of the scrimmage due to a bone bruise on his right knee — an injury sustained playing for Team Canada in August. He was unable to participate in training camp.
Without Johnson and Olynyk, the Heat had 18 players available Sunday.
▪ Veteran forward Udonis Haslem, who is entering his 17th NBA season, did not play in the scrimmage.
▪ Other stats from Sunday: Davon Reed with six points, one rebound and one assist; Derrick Jones Jr. with 16 points, two rebound and two assists; Jeremiah Martin with four points; Mychal Mulder with nine points, one rebound and one assist; Daryl Macon with seven points, three rebounds and four assists; Kyle Alexander with nine points and five rebounds; Kendrick Nunn with 15 points and two assists; Chris Silva with 13 points, 12 rebounds and five assists; Duncan Robinson with 17 points, two rebounds and five assists.