Sell­ing po­si­tion ver­sa­til­ity

Free agent off­sea­son moves give Heat mul­ti­ple ros­ter op­tions

Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition - - SPORTS - By Ira Win­der­man Staff writer

MI­AMI — Has­san White­side is the cen­ter; Go­ran Dragic is the point guard. Af­ter that, you’re on your own when it comes to de­lin­eat­ing roles for the Mi­ami Heat ros­ter that has been cul­ti­vated by Pat Riley and Erik Spoel­stra. More im­por­tantly, the play­ers are on their own. That, James John­son said af­ter re-sign­ing, is why he wanted to be back.

That, first-round pick Bam Ade­bayo said, is what makes this op­por­tu­nity so fas­ci­nat­ing.

That, Kelly Olynyk said af­ter sign­ing, is what made his re­lo­ca­tion so in­trigu­ing.

“They’ve turned guys that have been in the box for so long into guys who break out of that box and be­come some­thing spe­cial,” Olynyk said af­ter leav­ing the Bos­ton Celtics in free agency. “And you can see it, from top to bot­tom of their ros­ter.”

In­clud­ing even in sum­mer league, where Ade­bayo was cast at cen­ter on of­fense, switched onto the perime­ter de­fen­sively, even ad­vanced the ball across mid­court with bust-out drib­bles.

“Mi­ami said they were go­ing to let me play,” the big man out of Ken­tucky said, “so I’m play­ing freely and I’m hav­ing fun with my team­mates.”

With the ros­ter al­most full, the next log­i­cal step typ­i­cally would be defin­ing roles: Who starts at power for­ward? Who starts at small for­ward? Um, yeah, no. “We don’t care,” said Spoel­stra, “about con­ven­tional boxes.”

It is that pre­cise lack of black and white that distin­guished the Heat’s re­vival last sea­son from 11-30 at mid­sea­son to 41-41 at the fin­ish, a lack of con­ven­tion

“It’s a bunch of hard-work­ing guys out here who go out ev­ery night and play their butt off.” Kelly Olynyk, Heat for­ward

John­son said that car­ries from the court into the locker room.

“I think the way that Coach Spo al­lows us to coach each other, coach our­selves through the bad and the good, con­front each other, en­able each other to be­come bet­ter play­ers and not en­able each other in a bad way, I think that’s how we prob­a­bly jell so quickly and were able to have a suc­cess­ful sec­ond half,” he said.

“I just think this year we’re just go­ing to con­tinue be­cause we know what we want out of each other. We know we’re go­ing to hold each other more ac­count­able and we don’t have to wait 30 games, 40 games un­til we start do­ing that.”

Af­ter Spoel­stra’s cy­cling through any­thing-goes ro­ta­tions last sea­son, this time it will be with play­ers ar­riv­ing to camp ready for any­thing and ev­ery­thing.

In­clud­ing Olynyk, which might just take him back to his days as a 6-foot-10 point guard in 11th grade.

“It’s a bunch of hard­work­ing guys out here who go out ev­ery night and play their butt off,” he said. “And you know you’ve got some skilled guys, guys who just go out and play to­gether. When we played them last year four times, it was a bat­tle ev­ery sin­gle night and you couldn’t take one pos­ses­sion lightly, and that’s what it’s all about.

“I think the way they play and have a bunch of peo­ple han­dle the ball and a bunch of guys be­ing able to make plays for each other, and just how hard they play on the de­fen­sive end and to­gether, and their tempo, as well, I think it’s a great fit for me and I think I’ll fit right in.”

Riley said that is be­cause it is an ap­proach de­signed to fit every­one and any­one.

“Wher­ever coach Spo wants to take this po­si­tion­less game . . . wher­ever it goes, how­ever he feels, the whole con­cept of po­si­tion­less has to do with the of­fense,” Riley said. “It does not have to do with the size of the player. It’s that ev­ery player ba­si­cally knows all the po­si­tions. So wher­ever you’re at on the court, the mo­tion in the of­fense, ev­ery­body knows what the mo­tions are.

“Some play­ers feel more com­fort­able in cer­tain ar­eas of the court and you want to put them there, but that’s the gen­eral con­cept. Run like hell, get to your spots, and run 22 hand­offs and three pick-and-rolls and then look for a three. I like it.”


James John­son’s ver­sa­til­ity han­dling the ball al­lowed him to ini­ti­ate the Heat’s of­fense last year. The for­ward had a break­out sea­son av­er­ag­ing 12 points, three as­sists and four re­bounds per game.


The Heat’s po­si­tion­less ap­proach was one rea­son Kelly Olynyk signed with Mi­ami this off­sea­son.

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