Miami Heat’s ‘training camp will be about more competition,’ says Riley
A six-pack of Heat notes on a Wednesday:
▪ The Heat continues to cycle intriguing prospects through auditions, with one of the nation’s most coveted grad transfers among the latest to be summoned to AmericanAirlines Arena.
Rayjon Tucker, an athletic 6-5 guard, auditioned for the Heat during three days last week, according to a league source. The Heat was interested in signing Tucker to an Exhibit 10 contract, which comes with a $50,000 guarantee and a training camp invitation.
But Tucker’s preference is to sign a two-way contract, and the Heat did not immediately offer one.
ESPN rated Tucker the second-best grad transfer available this past spring, in the wake of averaging 20.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and shooting 41.1 percent on three-pointers in his one season playing for Arkansas-Little Rock, where he earned All-Sun Belt honors.
Tucker, who spent his first two seasons at Florida Gulf Coast, left Arkansas-Little Rock and committed to Memphis on May 11, bypassing offers from Kansas, Auburn and Iowa State, but ultimately decided to keep his name in the NBA draft pool.
After going undrafted, he signed a summer league contract with Milwaukee and averaged 10.2 points and 3.6 rebounds while shooting 43 percent in five games. But the Bucks used their two-way deals on Frank Mason III and Cam Reynolds.
Tucker joins former St. John’s guard Justin Simon as the second confirmed prospect to be brought to Heat headquarters in recent weeks, and there are believed to have been others, too.
▪ So why hasn’t the Heat signed anyone to a two-way contract as of Wednesday morning?
One official in touch with the team’s front office said because the Heat has no room left under the hard cap to sign any more players to a standard contract, it’s trying to entice players to sign Exhibit 10 contracts with the expectation that they will have a legitimate chance to earn a two-way contract during training camp.
At this point, the Heat plans to have a handful of players compete for at least one — and potentially two — of the two-way contracts during training camp. Three players from Miami’s summer league team — forwards Chris Silva and Kyle Alexander and guard Jeremiah Martin — will be among those competing for a two-way deal, which allows a player to spend up to 45 days with an NBA team, then join the NBA team for the duration of the season after the G-League season ends.
▪ Trey Mourning, son of Heat executive Alonzo Mourning, signed with a team in Russia after playing summer league with the Heat. Mourning, who attended Ransom Everglades in Miami, averaged 3.2 points and 2.0 rebounds in 62 games — including 11 starts — for Georgetown over four seasons.
▪ Duncan Robinson said he’s “hurting” for Yante Maten, who was waived by the Heat just days before his Aug. 1 contract guarantee date. The move helped create enough room for Miami to sign veteran Udonis Haslem.
Robinson became close with Maten during the past year as the two shared an apartment in Sioux Falls, South Dakota., while they played as Heat two-way contract players in the G League. So when Robinson learned Maten had been released, the news became personal.
“It’s selfish of me to say it hurts for me,” Robinson said Saturday night during a break from watching Big3 basketball action at AmericanAirlines Arena. “But just to see him go through that, I know how much he has put into this and how much this means to him. But at the same time, I know he’s a really good player and an even better person. So he’ll end up in a good opportunity. I know he will because he certainly deserves to.”
As for Robinson, he’s on track to make the Heat’s regular-season roster. Already $1 million of his full $1.4 million salary for this upcoming season has been guaranteed.
“It’s just another step,” said Robinson, who played in 15 games for the Heat last season. “It’s headed in the right direction, for sure. I’m just excited for the opportunity. I got to make the most of it. The guarantee doesn’t mean anything if I don’t come in every day and handle my business and do things the right way, and show that I belong.”
Incidentally, Robinson has been impressed by Heat second-round pick KZ Okpala during workouts at AmericanAirlines Arena.
“First thing that probably jumps out is his length and his skillset,” Robinson said of the 6-9 Okpala. “So he has an interesting combination of skill and athleticism. I think his ceiling is way up there. He has a chance to be really special.”
▪ Kelly Olynyk, who sustained a bone bruise on his right knee, while playing for Team Canada in an exhibition game this month, is expected to be ready for the start of the regular season on Oct. 23, the Heat announced.
But there’s less certainty regarding his availability for the start of training camp. Olynyk returned to Miami and won’t join Canada for FIBA World Cup play in China in September.
▪ A source confirmed a New York Post report that former Heat (and Magic and Pistons coach) Stan Van Gundy is expected to leave ESPN for a game analyst role on TNT. A contract hadn’t been signed as of early afternoon Wednesday.
Reggie Miller and Chris Webber, who have been TNT’s top analysts, are expected back. Van Gundy will join Miller and Webber in that analyst rotation, which also has included Kevin McHale and Greg Anthony.
It’s undetermined which analysts will work TNT’s conference finals cablecasts, a marquee assignment that Miller and Webber handled with Marv Albert in recent years.
In this Tuesday piece, a scout and three TV analysts weigh in on whether the Heat is a playoff team.