Is forming a “super team” the only way to catch the Golden State Warriors and contend for an NBA title?
Miami Heat players who were a part of the team’s 30-11 finish last season continue to take the position it’s not necessary to load up on stars to compete at the game’s highest levels.
Less than a month after captain Udonis Haslem said success comes down to “playing hard” and center Hassan Whiteside said Dion Waiters and Goran Dragic “can become superstars themselves,” third-year guard Josh Richardson echoed those sentiments in the wake of Houston’s trade Wednesday afternoon to acquire nine-time All-Star Chris Paul, teaming him up with MVP runner-up James Harden.
“I feel like you just have to have a team where everybody plays the right way,” Richardson said before he played basketball and talked basketball with dozens of kids at the Heat’s basketball camp at South Broward High.
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“Golden State has superstars. But look at how they play. Everybody plays the right way – the way you’re supposed to play basketball. They move the ball. They’ve got [Kevin Durant] looking like one of the better defenders in the league. They’ve got Draymond [Green], Defensive player of the Year; Steph [Curry], who is a great passer; Klay [Thompson], who knows catch-and-shoot and doesn’t try to do too much. So, you’ve got to have a team where everybody knows their role, everybody knows how to play with each other.
“Star power definitely is a huge help. But that star has to know how to fit in with their teammates, know how to make guys around them better, how to bring guys up.”
Richardson cited the Spurs as an example of a team that can compete at a high level and isn’t necessarily loaded with stars beyond Kawhi Leonard.
“I think we have a team where everybody started or played well at the end of the year, and we started to learn each other’s tendencies,” Richardson said. “If we do keep this team together, then I’m confident against anybody.”
The Heat, expected to have $35 million in available cap space, is expected to meet with Utah free agent All-Star small forward Gordon Hayward and make a strong push to try to sign him after free agency begins at midnight Saturday. The Salt Lake Tribune reported late Wednesday the Heat will meet with Hayward first on Saturday.
The Celtics are trying to acquire Pacers All-Star forward Paul George to pair him with Hayward to form their own “super team.”
If the Heat fails to recruit Hayward or Clippers All-Star power forward Blake Griffin (both would require $29.7 million max contracts), Miami is expected to pivot back to Waiters and James Johnson. It could all end up becoming tricky and hectic for the Heat, but as coach Erik Spoelstra said Wednesday “it’s our world, it’s our life.”
“This is what we’re used to,” Spoelstra said of the hectic nature of the start of free agency and summer-league play on Saturday in Orlando. “It’s good to get back to some action. The last 10 days we’ve had the draft, we’ve had summer-league practices. There’s nothing like hearing the squeaky shoes on the gym floor, guys getting after it and working, and then we have free agency this weekend. It’s a good time of the year for us. We’re excited about it. We’ll attack it the way we always do.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ Rookie first-round pick Bam Adebayo, known for his aggressive play around the rim at Kentucky, showed off his shooting skills Wednesday by knocking down a 17-foot jump shot he said he has in his arsenal but didn’t display much of in college.
“I saw it today when we were running and getting up and down a little bit,” forward Okaro White said. “As soon as he shot it and made it, I looked at [Haslem] and [he] was nodding. So it looked good. He probably put a lot of work into it, and he’s probably looking forward to putting more work into it.”
▪ Assistant Chris Quinn, 33, was tabbed to coach this year’s summer-league squad.
“A big part of our development program is not only with the players, it’s with the staff,” Spoelstra said. “There are so many other things now than just player development and being on the bench. It’s helping manage games for me. There is nothing like sitting in that seat and making decisions. This will be a great opportunity for the next three weeks. He’s more than ready, and he showed it already in the first practice.”
▪ Richardson said he opted not to have surgery and instead took a month off from basketball activities and lifting weights at the end of the season so his sore right wrist could heal.
He said the wrist is fine now and he has resumed playing basketball. Richardson said his goal is to gain 10 pounds of muscle this summer.