South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday)

Don’t get comfortabl­e

That’s Spoelstra’s warning as his team gathers Sunday for the first time since losing in NBA Finals

- By IraWinderm­an

Erik Spoelstra is aware that familiar faces at the outset doesn’t always mean smiling faces at the finish.

So when the Miami Heat coach brings his entire team together Sunday for the first time since losing Game 6 of the NBA Finals to the LosAngeles Lakers onOct. 11, he is determined to make sure that what is old is newagain.

With 13 returning players from the 2019-20season-ending roster, theHeat, according toNBA.com’s calculatio­ns, rank fifth among the league’s 30 teams in season-toseason continuity, returning 84% of their minutes played fromlast season. No team that advanced beyondthe first roundof the2020 playoffs has more.

But the Heat also can appreciate the fool’s gold of familiarit­y, having fallen into the trap of bringing back the likes of Dion

Waiters and James Johnson after a 30-11 close to 2016-17 and then stumbling through the next two seasons without a playoff series win.

“Well, I think you have to go throughthe entireproc­ess again,” Spoelstra said of bringing a fresh outlook to a team re grouping after barely twomonths of recovery.

“I’m leery of just making sure we’re not skipping steps.”

Because of the quick turnaround from the pandemic-delayedfin­ish to last seasonandt­hen the late start to this season, the NBA has staggered the approach to training camps.

For the past week, there have been individual session sat American Airlines Arena, as players moved through COVID-19 testing and coronaviru­s protocols. Now, leading up to the Heat’s Dec. 14 exhibition opener against the visiting New Orleans Pelicans,

Welcome to the Season of Spo-isms. Because never before have “we have enough” and “whatever is necessary” and “all hands on deck” and “we’re a no-excuse team” become such necessary components of the NBAlexicon.

ForErik Spoelstra, COVID-19 stands like no other opponent. So he has prepared, as he often has said, “for anything and everything.”

For the MiamiHeat, that means a PlanBfor just about every eventualit­y is in place, with the league’s pandemic policy mandating absences of 12 days or longer for positive coronaviru­s tests.

“You have to go through those plans and responsibi­lities, andwe did go through that during the bubble process andwe’ve had to revisit that with everybody on the staff in preparing for this season,” Spoelstra said of howthis season could reflect the approach the team took in the league’s quarantine bubble over the summer at DisneyWorl­d. “And the same goes with your preparatio­n as a coaching staff for your team.

“You put together asmany different plans as possible, but there are going to be a lot of things unforeseen, that you can’t predict, and this might beCOVID-related or not. In a typical season there are a lot of things that happen that youwouldn’t have been able to predict or guess going into it. You just try to prepare asmuchas you possibly can.”

So whatwould an alternate Heat universe look like? Perhaps something like this:

If no Erik S po el st ra ... then Chris Quinnwould slide over to the lead chair, similar to how former assistant coachDanCr­aig took over when Spoelstraw­as absent for the births of his sons.

With Craig leaving to take a role onTyronnLu­e’s coaching staff with the Los Angeles Clippers, Quinn, whohas been on theHeat staff since 2014, has clear seniority among Spoelstra’s bench assistants, withMalik Allen in his second year alongside Spoelstra and CaronButle­r in his first as anNBAassis­tant.

IfnoJimmyB­utler . . . then the hopewould be a dip in the fountain of youth for Goran Dragic. Of theHeat’s wings, Dragic comes closest to matching the drive-and-kick game of Butler, aswell as the ability to get to the rim and initiate contact.

It will be interestin­g to see if Spoelstra paces Dragic to have him ready for the minutesBut­ler will miss.

IfnoBamAde­bayo . . . then punt?

About the only player on the roster with similariti­es to Adebayo’s game is first-round pick PreciousAc­hiuwa, whohas yet to play his firstNBAmi­nute. And even then, there is noway a rookie is going to serve as the fulcrum of Spoelstra’s offense.

Basically, anewplaybo­ok would be needed in the absence ofAdebayo.

IfnoGoranD­ragic . . . then even more ofTylerHer­ro in attack mode.

As it is, Herro appears a likely successor toDragic, which iswhy there has been more emphasis on ball-handling.

With the playmaking of Butler andAdebayo, theHeat do not necessaril­y need a point guard whois a pure point guard.

IfnoTylerH­erro . . . then the door might crack back open for KendrickNu­nn.

With theHeat having added Avery Bradley in the offseason, Nunn could find himself shuffled out of the rotation, aswas the case during the playoffs.

It is the absences of others, such asHerro, thatNunn will have to seize upon.

If no Duncan Robinson ... then an alternate game plan could be needed.

WhenRobins­onwas off in the playoffs, theHeatwer­e off. His style is unique, so there seemingly is not a plug-and-play PlanBfor his game.

Thiswould be where theHeat would have to instead explore the possibilit­ies of Maurice H ark less and Andre Iguodala. Otherwise, the closest thing found on the roster toRobinson­might be Gabe Vincent.

IfnoAveryB­radley . . . then theHeat againwould have to decide howto defend fleet opposing point guards.

With Dragic getting on in years, withHerro stiff in his lateralmov­ement andwithNun­n uneven with such challenges, it could come down to calling upon the defensive guile ofButler and Iguodala in such situations.

If no Precious Ac hiuwa ... then the door may yet crack open forKZOkpal­a or Chris Silva (but likely still not forUdonis Haslem).

IfnoKelly Olynyk. . . then Meyers Leonard.

IfnoMeyers Leonard. . . then KellyOlyny­k.

IfnoAndre Iguodala . . . then MauriceHar­kless.

If no Maurice H ark less ... then more Andre Iguodala.

IfnoKendri­ckNunn. . . then the reality that theHeat are positioned­with ample replacemen­t depth, particular­ly with Bradley added.

 ?? MARKJ. TERRILL| AP ?? The Heat return with more roster continuity than any otherNBAco­ntender.
MARKJ. TERRILL| AP The Heat return with more roster continuity than any otherNBAco­ntender.
 ?? MARKJ. TERRILL/AP ?? ErikSpoels­tra’swords this season also could be the Heat’s action plan, withCOVID-19 shadowing the team’s roster decisions.
MARKJ. TERRILL/AP ErikSpoels­tra’swords this season also could be the Heat’s action plan, withCOVID-19 shadowing the team’s roster decisions.
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