An ever-chang­ing ro­ta­tion has been a con­stant for Heat

Miami Herald (Sunday) - - Nba - BY AN­THONY CHI­ANG achi­[email protected]­ami­her­ald.com

TORONTO

It’s been an event­ful start to the sea­son for the Heat.

Through the first 18 games, Mi­ami (7-11) has used eight dif­fer­ent start­ing line­ups. Some of that’s be­cause coach Erik Spoel­stra is still work­ing to find the right com­bi­na­tions, but in­jury is­sues have also forced him to switch things up.

Nine Heat play­ers have al­ready com­bined to miss 59 games be­cause of in­jury or per­sonal rea­sons.

The one thing that’s ac­tu­ally re­mained con­stant with the Heat to start the sea­son is that noth­ing is con­stant. Mi­ami’s ro­ta­tion con­tin­ues to change from game to game, with Spoel­stra try­ing to make the most of the team’s depth and ver­sa­til­ity.

With­out a peren­nial All-Star on the ros­ter, some view the Heat’s depth as a strength and oth­ers view it as ros­ter re­dun­dancy that doesn’t al­low for fixed roles in a set ro­ta­tion.

“It’s a strength,” said guard Wayne Elling­ton, with the Heat set to close a two-game trip Sun­day in Toronto against the Rap­tors. “But at the same time, you got to be pro­fes­sional, you got to be ready. What­ever hap­pens, what­ever de­ci­sion coach makes, he makes. You got to re­spect it, you got to con­tinue to grind.”

Look around the ros­ter and there’s mul­ti­ple play­ers com­pet­ing for min­utes at vir­tu­ally ev­ery spot.

At guard, Mi­ami has seven ro­ta­tion-level play­ers when ev­ery­body is healthy (Go­ran Dragic, Elling­ton, Tyler John­son, Rod­ney McGruder, Josh Richard­son, Dwyane Wade and Dion Wait­ers).

Then Richard­son and McGruder can slide over and play some small for­ward with Der­rick Jones Jr. and Jus­tise Winslow. The power ro­ta­tion is also crowded, with Bam Ade­bayo, James John­son, Kelly Olynyk and Has­san White­side try­ing to make the most of their min­utes.

Elling­ton is one of two Heat play­ers who has re­ceived a sur­prise DNP-CD (did not play, coach’s de­ci­sion) this sea­son. He was kept on the bench for three games af­ter he re­turned from an an­kle in­jury.

Olynyk is the other, as he didn’t play in Tues­day’s home loss to the Nets de­spite be­ing avail­able. It marked his first DNP-CD since sign­ing with the Heat in the sum­mer of 2017.

“Top to bot­tom, you can play any num­ber of 15 to 17 guys, what­ever it is,” Olynyk said. “So, it’s re­ally tough and I don’t envy coach Spo’s po­si­tion be­cause it’s not an easy one — try­ing to fig­ure out ro­ta­tions and the best fit and the best com­bi­na­tions. There’s only 48 min­utes at ev­ery po­si­tion, so it’s not easy. There’s go­ing to be times where guys are hurt or banged up. But if ev­ery­body is healthy, there’s go­ing to be guys who are left out.

The play­ers also have some chal­lenges to deal with on a team like this.

“There are chal­lenges just be­cause you have so many guys that can be ef­fec­tive,” Richard­son said. “On a night you might be hav­ing a tough night, you have to be ma­ture enough to be able to cheer for your team­mate, who can go out there and pick up the slack for you in­stead of be­ing up­set that it’s not you out there.

“You never know any given night. You might be out there with the guy cookin’, you might be guy cookin’, or you might be on the bench hav­ing to root for that guy. But you have to be man enough to be able to play any of those roles.”

There has been at least two Heat play­ers out with in­juries in ev­ery game so far, which has made some of Spoel­stra’s de­ci­sions eas­ier.

But what’s go­ing to hap­pen when/if the Heat is com­pletely healthy?

Heat pres­i­dent Pat Ri­ley has a sug­ges­tion for Spoel­stra.

“When we get all 14 healthy, he’s got an is­sue,” Ri­ley said to the me­dia at a com­mu­nity event ear­lier this month. “He’s go­ing to get down on his knees and pray to the play­ers and say, ‘Please, just un­der­stand you’ll get your time some­where.’ ”

PEDRO POR­TAL ppor­[email protected]­ami­her­ald.com

The Heat has used eight dif­fer­ent start­ing line­ups through the first 18 games of the sea­son as coach Erik Spoel­stra seeks to find the right com­bi­na­tions. In­juries have also been an is­sue, with at least two Heat play­ers out ev­ery game so far..

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