The Heat’s successful summer sojourn ended here Saturday, with Miami eliminated from the Las Vegas Summer League on a night that it rested two of its best players.
With Kendrick Nunn and first-round pick Tyler Herro both given the game off for rest - and injured Chris Silva and rookie second-rounder KZ Okpala also out - the Heat rallied from an early deficit before succumbing in overtime, 101-100, to New Orleans at Thomas & Mack Center.
Miami closed 6-2 in summer league - 3-0 in Sacramento and 3-2 in Las Vegas.
Duncan Robinson (26 points) was very good in defeat, and former Memphis guard Jeremiah Martin (24 points) had his best game for the Heat - two days after signing a non-guaranteed contract that includes an invitation to training camp.
This was the final chance for Yante Maten and Robinson to make an impression on Heat officials, with guarantee dates looming for both.
Robinson, in particular, seems likely to be retained beyond Monday’s key guarantee date but he had received no assurance of that as of Saturday evening.
If there were no financial issues in play, Robinson and Maten would be no-brainers to take to training camp, and Robinson still might be.
But Miami stands less than $1 million below its $138.9 million hard cap and would need to release a player to sign any free agent, including Udonis Haslem.
Robinson already has been guaranteed $250,000, but another $750,000 of his $1.4 million salary will be guaranteed if he’s not waived by 11:59 pm Monday night. Because of his development this summer, it would be surprising if he doesn’t stick beyond Monday.
Robinson made another strong impression, shaking off a 1 for 7 start to close 9 for 21 from the field, with eight rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks.
Robinson entered averaging 15.3 points and shooting 44.9 percent in Las Vegas games, including 35.3 percent on three-pointers.
“We’re proud of Duncan,” Heat summer league coach Eric Glass said Saturday night. “He got better on the defensive end for sure and his rebounding was much better. We’ve seen his offense. We know he can shoot.
“We know he’s learning to put the ball on the floor a little bit. All those things have evolved in his game. The two big areas were rebounding and defense, and those two areas have really improved.”
Maten, meanwhile, was very good in Sacramento Summer League and started slowly in Vegas but had a strong final three games, including 17 points and 9 rebounds Saturday.
Maten’s two-year deal (worth $1.4 million this upcoming season) already has $100,000 guaranteed for next season and that will increase to $150,000 if he is not waived by Aug. 1, with another $150,000 guaranteed if he’s on the team for the regular-season opener.
With Herro, Nunn and Silva sidelined, that meant more opportunity for players trying to make their case for training camp contracts or two-way contracts from Miami or another team: forwards Kyle Alexander, Nick Mayo and Trey Mourning, center Ibrahima Faye and guards Charles Cooke and Nick Weiler Babb.
Alexander was again active, closing with 6 points and 11 rebounds and three blocks. Cooke, a former G-League player who was with the Heat on a 10-day contract last season, started and scored 11 but committed a late overtime turnover and a questionable foul that led to the Pelicans’ winning free throw late.
Martin, an explosive scorer at Memphis, closed 9 for 18 from the field, showing the offensive skills that intrigue the Heat.
“This was a better version of Jeremiah,” Glass said. “He had to handle the ball a lot more today and that’s where he’s comfortable so you saw his game come out a little bit better.”
The Heat will now consider whether to give a two-way contract to one of those players or to a player from another team.
▪ Glass said Nunn and Herro didn’t play Saturday because “we’ve had a long summer league and those guys have played a lot of minutes. The decision was made to sit them today.”
As of early evening Saturday, Oklahoma City had not offered an attractive enough package for the Heat to strongly consider trading for the final three years and $124 million of 34-year-old point guard Chris Paul’s contract.
The Heat always listens when a team calls and won’t rule out a Paul trade if the Thunder presents an overwhelming offer.
But this is a case of OKC trying to trade Paul; Miami is not aggressively trying to acquire him. OKC would prefer to find a taker as soon as possible.
Here’s my Saturday piece on NBA and Heat reaction to the play of Tyler Herro.
Here’s my Saturday piece on UM’s Dewan Hernandez and how former Canes are doing in NBA Summer League.