Barry Jackson

Heat shares key message with Waiters; New lineup intrigues

Miami Heat Dion Waiters passes the ball around Charlotte Hornets Dwight Howard in the first quarter at the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, Florida, October 9, 2017.
Miami Heat Dion Waiters passes the ball around Charlotte Hornets Dwight Howard in the first quarter at the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, Florida, October 9, 2017.

Some Heat notes on a Tuesday:

• Even after giving guard Dion Waiters a four-year, $52 million contract this summer, the message was clear: He needs to be more efficient.

Though preseason shouldn’t be overstated, the early signs have been uneven. After averaging a career-high 2.2 turnovers per game last season, Waiters had 15 in four games (3.8 per game or 7.7 per 48 minutes). That’s compared with 16 assists.

"He'll get better with it," coach Erik Spoelstra said Tuesday. “He's got the ball in his hands quite a bit and there's a responsibility with that. We've talked a great deal about that. He's got to make the best plays for the team. I love his aggressiveness right now.

"He made a lot of really good plays last night. Simple is great. That's something I constantly remind of, that there are things he can do that other guys don't necessarily have that ability. We want to maximize that. But obviously, we need him to be efficient as well.”

Waiters shot 49.3 percent from the field in the 25 games he played during the Heat’s 30-11 second half run but closed at 42.4 percent, barely above his career average. He’s shooting 42.9 this preseason (14 for 35), including 1 for 11 on threes.

Where would Spoelstra like that percentage?

"I don't want to put a ceiling on it, but the more efficient he can be to build on last year and not stay where that was," he said. "Why not get it over 50 percent and make a ton of plays without many mistakes."

Waiters said one priority for him is improving his 64.9 free throw percentage last season. He’s 9 for 12 in preseason (75 percent).

Like Waiters, power forward/center Kelly Olynyk also has 15 turnovers in preseason (compared with 13 assists).

• The Heat went into camp leaning toward going with James Johnson at starting power forward. But Olynyk’s strong play as a starter alongside Hassan Whiteside the past two games has made Spoelstra rethink that.

Asked how he has liked that Whiteside/Olynyk starting pairing, Spoelstra said: "Their skill sets really complement each other. Kelly does a lot of things very similar to JJ in his own personality in his own way. We think it fits. We think it works whether he comes off the bench or not, I like the dynamic."

James Johnson said he’s happy with starting or coming off the bench but that "Kelly deserves that starting role if it comes to him."

And Olynyk, who has mostly been a reserve in his NBA career with Boston, admitted the possibility of starting excites him.

"Everybody wants to start," he said. "Whatever works for this team is what we'll do. There is no one here who values starting over winning."

He said playing alongside Whiteside "has gone pretty well so far. It's a lot easier playing next to an All-Star center.  You play whatever game is tailored to what the defense gives us. When you play with Hassan, obviously he takes up a lot of room in the paint. You are going to be on the perimeter a little more, handling the ball, trying to get him post touches, trying to put him in positions to succeed.

"When you are playing with the other group, you're kind of in and out a little more, doing a little more stuff inside, posting, making plays like that. It's two different styles.”

Spoelstra said any decision on a starting power forward won’t be final and could change during the regular season: “Nothing's in concrete. We'll adjust if we need to.”

Goran Dragic’s take of that Whiteside/Olynyk starting lineup?

"Kelly brings a different game to the table,” Dragic said. “He can spread the floor, he can shoot, He can put the ball on the floor. Make somebody else easy to get a shot. JJ same way. JJ has such a great chemistry with Tyler [Johnson] and those guys that it's really tough right now. I'm fully comfortable with the decision that Spo is going to make on players. So we're not worried about that."

• Dragic, who has been given off the last two games, notices this about his team: “Sometimes we are too lazy and don't do what we're supposed to do. That gets us in trouble. As long as we play to our strengths, we are in good shape."

Here are my UM nuggets from today, including the new plan at running back and some eye-opening changes from Al Golden to Mark Richt... Here’s my story on a Dolphins coaching hire.