Heat

The Palm Beach Post - - WEATHER - Tdan­gelo@pb­post.com Twit­ter: @tom­dan­gelo44

The 6-6 Richard­son leads the Heat with 68 points in five games this pre­sea­son. He can play three po­si­tions.

“That goes without even say­ing,” Spoel­stra said this week when asked if Richard­son’s play war­rants a ma­jor role this sea­son. “I just want him to con­tinue to gain more con­fi­dence. It would have been re­ally in­ter­est­ing com­ing off his rookie year if he was healthy last year. Our ex­pec­ta­tions were pretty high last year. If he would have been able to put to­gether sev­eral months of play­ing game ex­pe­ri­ence, where he would have been at the end of the year. And where he ended up be­ing any­way was pretty darn good.”

Jus­tise Winslow is another op­tion to be­gin the sea­son as the Heat’s start­ing small for­ward. That was his spot be­fore he suf­fered a sea­son-end­ing shoul­der in­jury in late De­cem­ber.

Winslow is av­er­ag­ing 5.2 points on 32 per­cent shoot­ing, 4.6 re­bounds and 3.0 as­sists in five pre­sea­son games, but he thrived in a point for­ward role Wed­nes­day and had seven points, seven re­bounds and nine as­sists.

“He did a lit­tle bit of ev­ery­thing,” Spoel­stra said. “He han­dled the ball, played up the court, posted up a cou­ple of times and then de­fen­sively he was guard­ing vir­tu­ally ev­ery­body on the court. That’s the kind of mul­ti­fac­eted game that he’s ca­pa­ble of. Once he gets more min­utes, games un­der his belt, I think you’re just go­ing to see more and more of those kind of plays.”

The Heat have a start­ing back­court of Go­ran Dragic and Dion Waiters, so Winslow could have a tough time find­ing space as a fa­cil­i­ta­tor in the start­ing lineup. But Richard­son’s ver­sa­til­ity is bet­ter suited for the bench, en­abling him to en­ter games in roles based on foul trou­ble and matchups.

Ei­ther way, the Heat will miss McGruder. After mak­ing the Heat’s ros­ter on the fi­nal cut-down day last year, he ended up play­ing in a team-high 78 games and av­er­ag­ing 6.4 points, 3.3 re­bounds and 1.6 as­sists.

McGruder, who had never made an NBA ros­ter after two years in the de­vel­op­men­tal league and a year in Hun­gary, stepped in for the in­jured Winslow as the start­ing small for­ward. The Heat re­lied on him to guard some of the best scor­ing wings in the league dur­ing their clos­ing 30-11 surge, in­clud­ing Kevin Du­rant, Le­Bron James, Paul Ge­orge and Jimmy But­ler.

“He started 65 games, he was one of the tough­est, most com­pet­i­tive, de­tailed de­fend­ers in the league,” Spoel­stra said this sum­mer. “He took on the chal­lenge every sin­gle night as one of the best wing de­fend­ers . ...

“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.”

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