Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said on Monday that he wants to stick with this current starting lineup — a quintet that has the second-worst plus/minus on the team among five-man groups but has played fairly limited minutes together.
The group of Hassan Whiteside, James Johnson, Josh Richardson, Goran Dragic and Tyler Johnson has played 54 minutes together, and the Heat has been outscored by 36 points in those minutes.
That unit, as a collective group, is shooting 38.6 percent from the field and 32.6 percent on threes (10 for 31), with 23 turnovers and 27 assists.
Though they struggled at the start of Saturday’s win against Charlotte, Spoelstra wants to give that group a longer look.
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“There’s been some fluidity with that lineup, too, where we’ve had different guys start,” Spoelstra said. “But I would like to see this group for a little bit healthy and get an opportunity to produce.”
Tyler Johnson’s move into the starting lineup was necessitated by Dion Waiters’ season-ending ankle surgery.
Spoelstra has experimented with both James Johnson and Kelly Olynyk as the starting power forward but likes how Olynyk and Bam Adebayo have played together in tandem off the bench.
CARLISLE PRAISES HEAT
Asked about the Heat performing so well without an All-Star selection, Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said that “Spoelstra should be on the All-Star team. I mean he always does a great job and he’s even raised the bar higher. What he’s done with this roster and developing guys …
“They’ve got a good thing going there. And, again, Erik’s the guy that’s the leader of the whole thing. Not to diminish the players that they have — they have good players — but the job he’s doing this year is just phenomenal.
“I mean, what Wayne Ellington’s doing, I mean that’s great coaching vision, finding a niche like that and developing him into the kind of guy that’s 100 mile-and-hour sprint into three-point shots. I mean, not many people saw that coming. So I give Erik a lot of credit for that one.
“And, all these guys, you know. [Josh] Richardson has really emerged as a terrific crunch-time player. Tyler Johnson’s undrafted. They’ve done a great job with [Goran] Dragic. [Hassan] Whiteside’s a guy that was a second-round pick or something like that and now he’s a max player. I mean, Erik’s done an amazing job with this group.”
Carlisle also noted that “I saw their bench the other night in the fourth quarter, when all those guys were sitting down. Whiteside is sitting down. Dragic is sitting down. They’re all into it. So, they’ve got a good thing going there.
“They go hard. For me, I think they’re as hard a playing team as there is in this league right now. And matching their intensity and force is a lot of what the game is about.”
JONES, WALTON UPDATE
The Heat dispatched Derrick Jones Jr. and Derrick Walton Jr. to their G-League affiliate in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Jones has only seven NBA days remaining this season, and Walton five, as part of their two-way contracts.
Spoelstra wants them “to go down there and get some game experience, but also develop in all the areas of our culture down there. They’re not just going down there to yank up 30 shots and try to see how many points they can get. That has nothing to do with that part of their development. It’s working with coaches. It’s providing leadership. It’s building that habit of competing hard at a high level, particularly on the defensive end.
“So it will be good for them to get that experience down there, and we were a little bit relatively healthier than we’ve been. So it was an easy decision. Ultimately, we wanted to have them spend more time down there than with us — but to have a balance, where they spend enough time with us so they really got a feel for how we do things. It’s been the other way around really for Derrick Jones. But this should even out now. And of course, it will be fluid if something happens.”
Here’s my Monday in-depth look at Hassan Whiteside’s season, with context from Pat Riley’s offseason comments.
Here’s my Monday UM blog with some recruiting news...