Barry Jackson

Here’s the change that Heat players say is helping. And why Waiters appreciates Spoelstra

Spoelstra on Waiters: ‘’He gave us a big boost’’

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra talks to the media after their 103-99 loss to the Denver Nuggets at AmericanAirlines Arena on Tuesday, January 8, 2019 in Miami.
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Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra talks to the media after their 103-99 loss to the Denver Nuggets at AmericanAirlines Arena on Tuesday, January 8, 2019 in Miami.

A six-pack of Heat notes on a Monday:

Several players say the thinned roster and rotation have been a positive, even though Miami lost two talented players in Wayne Ellington and Tyler Johnson via trade.

“It’s calming knowing you’re going to play X amount of minutes every night,” Josh Richardson said. “We love those guys [but] before, it was different. Now the guard rotation is thinned a little bit so we can play through stuff a little more now instead of it being the other way around.”

Said Kelly Olynyk: “It’s unfortunate that you lose two of your guys, great people on the court and off the court. It’s tough but it definitely has clarified things a little bit, given guys more clarity and roles and peace of mind and not looking over your shoulder as much, which was happening a lot the last month. It’s easier from that standpoint. Now we have to go out there and win some games.”

Erik Spoelstra said he is pleased with what he got both at center and power forward on the road trip.

James Johnson has played well off the bench and except for the Denver game (when most Heat players played poorly), the Heat has played well with Olynyk on the court as a starter.

“For whatever reason, the dynamics with both groups are good,” Spoelstra said. “Our frontcourt was very good on this road trip.”

Olynyk calls the chance to be a starter “a great opportunity” but said for him personally, “I don’t think it has a lot of meaning. You want to finish the games more than you want to start them. As a kid, you obviously want to start. Once you get here, you realize it’s not as important as finishing.”

Olynyk goes to the All-Star break averaging 9.0 points, 4.4 rebounds while shooting 45.2 percent from the field and 34 percent on three-pointers.

Assessing his first half of the season, Olynyk said: “I would say it’s all right. I wouldn’t say it’s good. There’s a lot of room for improvement.”

At this point, Olynyk is not on pace to reach 1700 minutes, a threshold which must be met to receive a $1 million bonus. But Olynyk – who received the bonus last season – said he won’t be upset if he falls short of that 1700 minute threshold.

“If it happens, it happens; if it doesn’t, it doesn’t,” he said. “It’s not something you can control.”

Dirk Nowitzki emerged from last Wednesday’s 112-101 Heat win in Dallas with an appreciation of the Heat’s roster, even with Miami at 26-30.

“They are a good team; they play hard,” he said. “They started playing some zone and if you don’t hit some threes against the zone, they are just going to keep standing in there and they got some shot blocking at the rim with Bam Adebayo and Hassan Whiteside. So when our guards penetrated, they were affected at the rim. They play hard and are well-coached.”

Justise Winslow believes teams are starting to pay more attention to him when he shoots from the perimeter.

“I have been shooting the ball pretty well so teams are closing out,” he said. “Teams have been mixing up the coverages on pick and rolls. I think I have been getting more attention from opposing teams.”

Winslow is awaiting word from Spoelstra about whether he will continue to start when Goran Dragic returns from knee surgery after the All-Star break. The Heat reconvenes for a practice on Wednesday before playing Thursday at Philadelphia.

Dion Waiters appreciates Spoelstra not only for making him a starter again, but for this, too: “Coach is allowing you to be yourself. He coaches you when you make mistakes and you want that. [But] he’s allowing you to be yourself. You make shots, you miss shots. When you got a guy like that, the game is easier and fun.”

The Heat, by league rule, must sign a 14th player by Wednesday, because teams are permitted to carry only 13 for a two-week period.

The Heat could sign a player to a 10-day contract, which would help in its desire to get below the luxury tax threshold by the final day of the regular season. Miami also could convert one of its two-way contracts (Duncan Robinson, Yante Maten) to a standard contract.

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