Heat Check

Heat’s McGruder tinkering with shot to become ‘knock-down shooter’

Rodney McGruder discusses his off-season at Miami Heat camp

The second-year guard started 65 games for the Heat last season and is working on becoming a "knock down shooter" this summer. June 13, 2017.
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The second-year guard started 65 games for the Heat last season and is working on becoming a "knock down shooter" this summer. June 13, 2017.

Rodney McGruder is letting his hair grow out this summer.

But don’t take it as a sign he’s getting sloppy.

There’s a reason the 25-year-old, second-year Miami Heat guard hasn’t made time to go get a haircut: he’s still working as hard as ever to get better and to become a “consistent knock-down shooter” next season.

“It’s just my summer style,” the normally clean shaven McGruder said Tuesday of his hairstyle after he played some hoops with a collection of teens and children at the Heat’s summer basketball camp at South Broward High School.

“In summer you’re just working, not really caring about your appearance – you know what I mean?”

After beating out former top prospect Briante Weber and veteran point guard Beno Udrih for the final roster spot coming out of camp last October, McGruder, who spent his first three professional seasons playing overseas in Hungary and in the NBA’s D-League, started 65 games for the Heat last season. Only Hassan Whiteside (77) and Goran Dragic (73) started more games for Miami.

On most nights, McGruder guarded the other team’s best player. He earned a reputation for being one of the team’s hardest workers before coach Erik Spoelstra honored McGruder near the end of the season by calling him “a 6-4 version” of team captain Udonis Haslem.

Although it’s hard to imagine McGruder remaining in the Heat’s starting lineup next season if Pat Riley has the kind of success he covets in free agency and the draft over the next month, McGruder is still as focused as ever on improving and remaining a contributor in the rotation.

Other than taking weekends off to hang out with family and friends here in Miami, McGruder said he’s been working out at AmericanAirlines Arena Monday through Friday for five, six hours a day.

He said he lifts weights and puts up hundreds of jump shots from about 8 a.m. to about “1 or 2” p.m. regularly.

“It’s been a couple of us in there,” McGruder said of the team’s day-to-day offseason workouts. “Me and Okaro [White], we’re really in there together. Justise [Winslow], [Josh Richardson] are in there with us. James [Johnson], Tyler [Johnson]. Wayne [Ellington], too. There’s been a lot of guys in there working out.”

McGruder said he’s been working on the mechanics of his shot with Heat shooting coach Rob Fodor since the season ended. Last season, while averaging 6.4 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.6 assists over 25 minutes a game, McGruder shot 41.3 percent from the field and 33.2 percent from three-point range – numbers both Riley and Spoelstra believe McGruder can improve upon.

“It’s just being ready to shoot, being down at one level, being ready to play the game,” McGruder said. “Rob is great. I look forward to great things, as well, because I see how he helped Goran [Dragic] at the beginning of the year.”

He’s also seeking the advice and help of three-point specialist Wayne Ellington, who had the most productive three-point shooting season of his career last season with the Heat.

“We talk,” McGruder said of Ellington, whom the Heat have until July 7 to resign for $6.2 million next season. “I just ask him questions and I ask him what he does and just watch him. I look at his film and I look at my shot, and just trying to see how I can get better because he’s one of the best shooters in the league. That’s somebody that you can learn from.”

▪ After playing for the Heat’s summer league team the last two seasons, McGruder said he will not be playing for Miami’s summer league team next month.

▪ So, how does Winslow look recovering from shoulder surgery?

“He looks good,” McGruder said. “I was watching him today and I was like ‘You better watch out. Justise looks good.’ He looks really good. You’re going to see. I don’t want to give away all the secrets. Justise looks real good.”

▪ What did McGruder take away from the Warriors’ 16-1 run through the playoffs?

“You just saw who had better habits,” he said. “That’s what you saw. Just watching basketball, you really understand what coaches mean when they talk about habits and ‘This is what we do, this is our brand of basketball.’ You saw all of that throughout the playoffs. You saw a team collectively beat the Cavs. They played as a team. Everybody was excited for one another when somebody made a big shot, big play. It reminded me of us a little bit – how it was next man up and just cheering for each other.”

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