The All-Star break will provide nearly everyone on the Miami Heat’s roster a chance to kick back and relax for about a week.
But there are a few players who won’t be heading straight to the beach.
Three members of the Heat – veteran swingman Wayne Ellington and rookies Marcus Georges-Hunt and Okaro White – left Houston Thursday bound for the All-Star festivities in New Orleans.
Ellington, the Heat’s union player representative, is going to attend the annual player’s association meeting at the All-Star game and will also coach some of the top boys and girls players from 32 different countries in the Basketball Without Borders camp.
White and Georges-Hunt, meanwhile, are playing in Saturday afternoon’s D-League All-Star game in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Keith Benson, who plays for the Heat’s D-League affiliate in Sioux Falls and who spent the preseason with the Heat, will also be playing in the game.
“I think it’s great,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said prior to the Heat’s 117-109 win over the Rockets. “We love our relationship that we have with Sioux Falls. We’ve developed players and we’ve proven that guys can play 30 to 40 games in Sioux Falls, and the next week they can be playing in the rotation for the Miami Heat. We have full confidence in the program.
“I’m glad Okaro is going to be able to go experience the weekend and play in the All-Star game and just enjoy the festivities.”
White will be reunited with Briante Weber, whom he played with in Sioux Falls and who is on his second 10-day contract with the Golden State Warriors. The two will represent the Western Conference D-League All-Star team along with Benson.
Georges-Hunt, meanwhile, whose 10-day contract with the Heat expires at midnight Friday, will be returning to play with the Maine Red Claws, Boston’s D-League affiliate, on the East squad.
“He's going to get killed, man,” White said Wednesday in Houston, loud enough for Georges-Hunt to hear him from across the lockerroom.
“I'm pretty sure the West has the best teams in the D-League, hands down. He’s lucky we didn't play against him [when Briante and I were in Sioux Falls]. It would have been easy. But I played against Marcus two years in the ACC. He knows what happened there.”
White, a former star at Florida State, won both of his head-to-head meetings in college with Georges-Hunt, a four-year starter at Georgia Tech. When they go head-to-head Saturday both players will have no idea if they’ll be Heat teammates again.
White, who signed a two-year contract with the Heat last week after playing through two, 10-day contracts, will rejoin the Heat after the All-Star break.
But with Josh Richardson expected to make his return after the break, Miami will no longer qualify for an injury player exemption to keep an extra roster spot and Georges-Hunt as a 16th player – something White was able to take advantage of. So, the Heat will have to make another roster move to keep Georges-Hunt on the standard 15-man roster.
Georges-Hunt, 22, will end up being free to sign with whatever NBA team he wants in the meantime. Or, he could end up back with Maine, under Boston’s umbrella. The NBA trade deadline is 3 p.m. Feb. 23.
“Right now, like you said, it’s a weird situation being that I’ve heard a lot of teams usually start giving people call-ups after the All-Star break, after trades, during this break,” said Georges-Hunt, who didn’t play for the Heat at all during his 10-day stint with the team.
“I’m just fortunate [the Heat] gave me the opportunity before All-Star game to see what it’s like, get used to me or get to know me a little bit more up close rather than just watch me on film.”
Georges-Hunt, who was born in Miami’s Baptist Hospital and lived there until his family moved to Georgia when he was 10, said he had about 20 family members and friends attend Monday’s home game against the Orlando Magic. It was the only time since Georges-Hunt was signed the Heat played a home game.
“It was a great experience,” Georges-Hunt said. “A lot of people were happy to see me out there being that I worked so hard up to this point to get here. Now, I just have to keep working hard.”
That work will continue Saturday at the D-League All-Star Game.
White, 24, said he is looking forward to one last hurrah representing Sioux Falls before continuing his NBA career with the Heat.
“It was a big part of my career and this will be a highlight of my career,” White said. “Any league I play in, I want to be an All-Star or one of the best players in that league. Hopefully it will be fun and a fun weekend.”