Getting sent down to the minors is usually viewed as a bad thing — especially for a first-round pick.
But Heat guard Shabazz Napier seems to be taking in stride last week’s quick trip to and from the NBA’s Development League.
“When I first heard about it, I didn’t really have an initial reaction,” said Napier, who was told prior to last Friday’s game in Utah that he would be leaving the Heat and joining the Sioux Falls Skyforce after the game.
“It’s the type of stuff I guess you’ve got to go through, just a part of life,” Napier continued. “Whatever basically the team says, I’m not going to go against it.”
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Napier’s stay in the D-League turned out to be brief. Very brief. He scored 22 points and dished out three assists in 30 minutes in a win at Iowa and then got a call after the game from the Heat, who wanted him back.
Once the Heat (12-14) realized forwards Josh McRoberts (torn meniscus) and Chris Bosh (strained calf) were injured and going to miss significant time, Napier, the 24th overall pick in June’s draft, was recalled along with forward Hassan Whiteside.
The 48-hour span in the D-League reminded Napier of his time in college at the University of Connecticut. He had to take a four-hour bus ride from Des Moines to Sioux Falls, where he and Whiteside eventually got on a flight to New York and rejoined the Heat before Tuesday’s game in Brooklyn.
In that game, Napier made three of his four three-point shots and scored 11 points in 18 minutes to help lead the Heat secure a 95-91 win. It was the kind of performance that resembled Napier’s fruitful 10-day stretch in late November when he scored in double digits in six straight games.
In Wednesday’s loss at home to Utah, Napier looked more like the player the Heat were intent on sending down to the D-League for more seasoning. He went 0-for-4 from the field, missed two free throws and went scoreless in 14 minutes.
Such is the life of an NBA rookie.
For what it’s worth, Napier’s averages still rank high among rookies. His 5.7 points per game rank 11th among 2014 first-round picks; his 21 minutes per game average rank eighth and his 1.9 assists rank fifth. His player efficiency rating (9.53) ranks 10th among all rookies, and his plus/minus of -39 ranks higher than fellow Heat point guards Norris Cole (-43) and Mario Chalmers (-90).
“I knew I wasn’t going to stay in there for too long, and if I did, so be it,” Napier said of his brief D-League stint. “I know where I belong. So, at the end of the day, I hated to see what happened to J-Mac. That’s my teammate and my brother. I’d rather nothing happen to him instead of me having a more fortunate situation.
“Like Luol [Deng] was telling me, ‘Don’t get too high or two low. It’s a long season — continue to push forward.”
How Wade feels
Dwyane Wade’s season-high, 42-point performance Wednesday on the heels of his 28-point game in a win at Brooklyn was encouraging for the Heat to see on two fronts.
One, because Wade, 32, finally appears to be getting past the hamstring injury that forced him to miss seven games in November. Secondly, because the Heat needs offense to come from somewhere with Bosh and McRoberts out.
“I’m past the hamstring right now at this point,” Wade said. “It kind of took me awhile to get my feet under me the way I wanted it to. I feel my legs are coming back the way I need them. I felt explosive [Wednesday against the Jazz]. I felt I could do things on the floor I wanted to do. Obviously, with Chris out, I’ve got to be a lot more aggressive.”
Is Wade starting to wonder if there is enough talent around him to keep the Heat afloat with Bosh out? Or is he losing patience?
“I’ve been around the block a few times,” Wade said. “Right now, I’m patient. We all have to be patient. You can’t be patient with the effort we put out. But you can be patient in understanding you’re not going win every game. We’re not coming to every game [being] the most talented team on the floor, like we have the last few years most of the time. So you’re patient from that standpoint. But we can’t be patient from an effort standpoint.”
“Obviously as a leader, as a captain, by example you have to do it [physically] and by voice. Now we’re back home for a while. Hopefully we can get on a roll.”
Friday: Wizards at Heat
When/where: 7:30 p.m., AmericanAirlines Arena.
TV/radio: Sun Sports; WAXY 104.3 FM and 790AM, WAQI 710AM (Spanish).
Series: Heat leads 73-34.
Noteworthy: The division-leading Wizards have tied their best start in franchise history and are 12 games over .500 for the first time since the end of the 1978-79 season. Reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week John Wall leads the league in assists and has posted 15 double-doubles to lead Washington, which is 8-1 in December. This is the third of four meetings between the teams and last time the Heat will host Washington this season. They beat them in the opener 107-95 but were blown out in Washington 107-86 on Dec.1.