Barry Jackson

Where Heat open regular season and a player the team wants to be more offensive-minded

Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside goes to the basket against Magic forward Marreese Speights in the second quarter of an NBA game at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Tuesday, December 26, 2017.
Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside goes to the basket against Magic forward Marreese Speights in the second quarter of an NBA game at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Tuesday, December 26, 2017. pportal@miamiherald.com

How does the Heat improve offensively with a similar roster after finishing tied for the 23rd in the league in scoring last season?

Mostly from improvement from within. And one player we’re told the Heat would like to be more aggressive is Josh Richardson.

Richardson, one of the league’s best wing defenders, finished 19th among small forwards at 12.9 points per game last season and was 13th in field goal attempts per game among small forwards, at 10.9.

Richardson, prepared to take a bigger role offensively if needed, has been working diligently this offseason on creating his own shot and off-the-dribble moves. He has worked out in both Miami and Santa Barbara, Cal.

Last season, Richardson ranked 17th among small forwards in field-goal percentage at 45.1 and 16th in three-point percentage at 37.5.

Heat president Pat Riley and Richardson have said there’s no reason he cannot average 18 points per game, which would have ranked eighth this year among all small forwards.

He has said he must improve his ball handling because “I want to be able to have a ball on a string next year so I can play in [isolation] situations more.”

Like the Heat staff, former Heat guard Eddie Jones - to whom Richardson has drawn comparisons because of his length and defensive acumen - said he would like Richardson to be more aggressive offensively.

The Heat received trade interest in Richardson this offseason but had no interest in dealing him.

Miami Heat president Pat Riley talks to the media about Hassan Whiteside under performing this season and relationship with the coach.

HEAT TO OPEN ON ROAD

Though the NBA schedule is not expected to be finalized or fully released until Friday afternoon, a league source confirmed Wednesday the Heat will open the regular season with back-to-back road games at Orlando and Washington on Oct. 17 and 18.

It’s the third consecutive season the Heat will open on the road at the Magic.

Coming off a 44-win season and a first round playoff loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, the Heat, featuring only one All-Star on its roster in Goran Dragic, has also been left off of the national TV schedule on Christmas Day for the third year in a row.

Miami will also not play on Martin Luther King Day or in any of the nationally televised games during opening week.

Miami previously announced it will open the preseason with the first of three consecutive road games Sept. 30 at San Antonio.

The NBA’s Christmas schedule of nationally televised games: Bucks-Knicks at noon, Thunder-Rockets at 3, Sixers-Celtics at 5:30, Lakers-Warriors at 8 and Trail Blazers-Jazz at 10:30 p.m.

Heat free agent Luke Babbitt, interested in potentially earning more playing time, has been considering offers in Europe.

Even though new Heat guard Malik Newman was cut by the Lakers after three weeks, a source said the team was “intrigued,” because “he can shoot, because he played really well late last season [for Kansas and because he was a highly touted high school player. He needs to learn how to play point guard.”

Believing it has enough veteran centers, the Heat never pursued Jahlil Okafor, who signed with New Orleans this week after training this summer in South Florida.

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