Heat Check

What bothered Heat’s Spoelstra most about NBA award snubs? McGruder being left off All-Rookie team

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra talks to the media during a practice for the team’s summer league squad at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Wednesday, June 28, 2017.
Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra talks to the media during a practice for the team’s summer league squad at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Wednesday, June 28, 2017. pportal@miamiherald.com

A six-pack of leftover Miami Heat notes:

▪ Despite the team’s strong 30-11 finish to the season, the Heat came away empty Monday at the NBA’s Awards show and didn’t have a player named to the All-Defensive, All-NBA or All-Rookie teams. Of all the perceived snubs, none bothered coach Erik Spoelstra more than Rodney McGruder not being named to the All-Rookie team.

“Somebody asked me how I felt about the Coach of the Year,” Spoelstra said. “None of us felt disappointed about that. We weren’t even thinking along those lines. But I was extremely disappointed about the lack of recognition for Rodney McGruder and what he did for us this year. He started 65 games, was one of the toughest, most competitive, detailed, defenders in the league. He took on the challenge every single night as one of the best wing defenders. Forget about being just a rookie, an impactful pro, what we did during the second half of the season was as much about the mentality and toughness Rodney McGruder gave us as it was anybody else.

“I was so disappointed he didn’t get recognized for that,” Spoelstra continued. “I thought it was going to be a lock. I talked about it during the year. There was discussion about him possibly being potentially rookie of the year. He had that kind of impact. I think he led all rookies in minutes, quality minutes for a team competing for the playoffs. And the challenge he took every single night guarding those wing prolific scorers was tremendous. He showed great growth. This won’t stop him. This just adds more fuel to his fire.”

McGruder finished third among all rookies in win shares and yet finished 11th in the voting. Only the top 10 rookies made the All-Rookie first and second teams.

Spoelstra added what he likes most about McGruder is that “he’s not wired for recognition” and said said he’s already had more workouts than another Heat player inside AmericanAirlines Arena this offseason. “I’m looking forward to the player he’ll be next year,” Spoelstra said.

▪ Spoelstra was equally effusive in his praise of center Hassan Whiteside, who finished fourth among centers for All-Defensive honors Monday. When Whiteside led the league in blocks in 2016 he earned All-Defensive second team honors.

“It was disappointing not to see Hassan recognized,” Spoelstra said. “We all felt he was a much better team defender this year than in the year he was recognized. And he’ll continue to keep on getting better as his understanding of the game gets better, how to impact winning more, how to impact team defense more and not just with statistics. I think hopefully if we can build a winning team and he continues to progress then he’ll not only get recognized for not only one of the All-Defensive teams awards, but hopefully something better.”

▪ Spoelstra, 46, finished as a distant runner-up to Houston’s Mike D’Antoni for the NBA’s Coach of the Year Award on Monday night. It’s the second time time in his career he’s finished as the runner-up for the Coach of the Year award having finished second to George Karl in 2013 despite coaching the Heat to an NBA-best 66-16 record and 27-game winning streak.

“You’re in a group with the studs of this profession. That alone is enough,” Spoelstra said of being named a finalist. “I think the best thing of all of it though from a coaching standpoint is that this was the best year in the NBA for coaching. 30 head coaches started with their jobs at the beginning of the season and all 30 remained as head coaches at the end of the year.

“I hope that is a sign of things to come,” he continued. “To become a successful head coach you need the players, you need talent, but just as important you need the support and perspective of ownership and management. Hopefully that’s a trend from here on out.”

▪ Rookie Bam Adebayo practiced in front of captain Udonis Haslem and with teammate Okaro White Wednesday. Both were impressed with what they saw including a 17-foot jumper Adebayo unleashed in transition.

“He looked good,” White said. “A couple weeks ago, I saw him workout. I was in the weight room watching him on TV and I liked him. The guy’s motor is high and he works real hard. He’s also a funny dude, too. He’s not a quiet guy at all, so I feel like we’re going to like him.”

Does White think Adebayo will make an immediate impact with the Heat?

“You know what? He’s a Heat guy,” White said. “Just sitting here watching him, he’s definitely a Heat guy. He works hard and he plays hard. That’s our team in general. So I think he can come in and make an impact.”

▪ Adebayo, 19, also got a chance to speak with Heat Hall of Fame center Alonzo Mourning on Wednesday.

“It’s wonderful,” Adebayo said of having Mourning as a resource. “I come in here every day and I learn new things from new people and have a good experience. [Mourning told me] just play hard, compete and make yourself one percent better every day.”

▪ Assistant Chris Quinn said the goal for Adebayo this summer is just about building the right habits.

“It’s not easy to duplicate Hassan Whiteside, that’s for sure,” Quinn said. “But, from Day 1, ‘ be about his habits, what we’re asking him to do is just to buy into what we do. He was awesome in the first practice. He’s a 19-year-old and he was really soaking everything in. He played really hard and we’re all very excited about fostering a relationship with him.”

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