Some Heat notes on a Friday:
▪ The view here is that the Heat is showing smart restraint by not succumbing to Minnesota’s immense compensation demands for Minnesota’s Jimmy Butler.
As ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe reported, Minnesota is seeking “quality veterans, top prospects, future assets and salary-cap relief, which is presently too steep of a package for interested teams” and as of Thursday, “there has been no team close to willing to meet Tom Thibodeau’s massive return for a Butler deal.”
The Heat cannot offer cap relief, and it’s prudent not to offer a package includes many of their top assets: Josh Richardson, Goran Dragic, Justise Winslow, Bam Adebayo, Kelly Olynyk. Trading one of those (though not Richardson), a draft pick and another contract? That’s reasonable. But dealing multiple players among those assets and a first-round pick to a team with no great leverage in this situation? I’ll pass.
Remember this: We’re talking about an All-Star player in Butler, but we’re not talking about a transcendent player that would necessarily even elevate Miami into the top three in the East.
The Wolves asked about Richardson, but the Heat - as of Thursday - was not interested in including him in its trade offer, according to a league source.
As ESPN reported, the Heat “has aggressively pursued a deal for Butler, but Minnesota’s counter was a non-starter for Heat president Pat Riley” even though the Heat was willing to accept the $48 million left on center Gorgui Dieng’s contract under certain circumstances.
Let’s put it this way: If the Heat relinquished three or even two of the above five assets - along with a first-round pick and other less valued players — would the remaining team, even with Butler, even be a cinch to be top-four in the East? Hardly.
Add Butler — and subtract say, Richardson, Winslow and another player — and I’m not convinced that team is clearly better than Indiana or even Milwaukee for fourth in the East. And remember, Butler’s cap hits at age 33 and 34 would be $40 million and $43 million.
So the Heat is wise not to succumb to enormous demands, knowing Minnesota’s leverage will continue to decrease with the prospect of the Wolves losing him for nothing next summer.
Incidentally, Houston TV reporter Mark Berman reported that the Rockets are making a “strong effort” to acquire Butler.
YOUNG PLAYER AUDITIONS
▪ Beginning Sunday in San Antonio, we will get a look at the six Heat players competing for maybe one roster spot or possibly more if the Heat acquires Butler and sends more players to Minnesota than it receives in return.
But if Miami doesn’t trade for Butler, there’s also the chance the Heat could go with 14 players, though that seems less likely amid injuries to Dion Waiters and James Johnson.
Of the six, two will definitely be in the organization: forwards Duncan Robinson and Yante Maten, who signed two-way deals.
A few things on the others:
▪ Malik Newman, the 2015 Parade and McDonald’s All American out of Jackson, Mississippi, says he has been working at both point guard and shooting guard. Though he was a point guard in high school and played some there in college, he needs to improve his point-guard skills.
He said Pat Riley told him he “liked what he saw” when he was playing a pickup game in September. The Heat said “they liked I can shoot the ball and make plays for others and my size [6-3],” Newman said.
He said he never sought an explanation why the Lakers released him July 19, 17 days after signing him to a two-way contract. He averaged only 3.2 points and 9.8 minutes per game for Los Angeles in summer league games in Sacramento and Las Vegas.
Newman averaged 11.3 points in 2015-16 at Mississippi State before transferring to Kansas, where he averaged 14.2 points, was named Big 12 newcomer of the year and had 21 points in a Final Four loss to Villanova.
▪ Forward Jarnell Stokes, who has appeared in 28 NBA games for the Grizzlies, Heat and Nuggets, including five for the Heat in 2015-16, said he developed his offensive game in China last season. For years, his rebounding has been good enough to be an NBA player but he needed to improve his range.
“I had to adjust to the new trend of basketball,” he said. “I always had a great three-point shot but I’ve never had anyone push me to take it.”
▪ The 6-9 Marcus Lee said the Heat has been using him primarily as a center. “They like what I do best — run the court and I’m athletic and be like Bam Adebayo,” he said.
Lee averaged 11.4 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks and shot 56.3 percent from the field in 32 games with the University of California last season after spending three years at Kentucky. He never attempted a three-point shot in college but said the Heat is having him shoot a “lot of corner threes” in practice. “So far, so good with that,” he said.
▪ Here was my story on Briante Weber if you missed that earlier this month.
▪ Of the two-way players, it’s possible Robinson or Maten could do enough to convince the Heat to convert the two-way deal to a standard deal.
Robinson said he has watched tape of Shane Battier, Mike Miller and Kyle Korver to observe how three skilled three-point shooters were able to expand their games in other areas.
“I want to prove that I belong at this level and show toughness that I won’t be pushed around,” he said.
JAMES JOHNSON UPDATE
The Heat continues to hold forward James Johnson out of contact work in practice as he recovers from May surgery to repair a sports hernia.
But Johnson said he has participated in “all the 3-on-0, 5-on-0, fast break, defense against coaches” drills, which do not involve contact. “I’m feeling better,” Johnson said following Friday’s training camp practice at FAU. “I’m getting better every day. I’m getting stronger every day and I can’t wait to come back healthy.”
For now, Johnson said the hope is still to be ready for the Oct. 17 regular-season opener at Orlando. And Johnson won’t use the injury as an excuse for anything that happened last season, as he opted to push through the pain instead of immediate rest or surgery.
“It didn’t limit me,” Johnson said. “I went out there and gave it my full force and I was having bad games. I can’t use nothing else [as an excuse]. I was having bad games and I want to take that as a man and I grew from that and I got better from it.”
▪ ESPN hired former Heat coach Stan Van Gundy for an NBA studio analyst position. Van Gundy coached the Pistons the past four years before being dismissed after this past season.