South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday)

Amid twists and turns, Heat take a pause

- Ira Winderman NBA Insider

Amid the rhythm of the season, it can be difficult to take stock, particular­ly with each game creating its own drama, particular­ly with the games coming in such rapid succession.

But with the NBA at rest for a week, there is time for evaluation beyond the scores and stats of the hour, the ability to change the lens to a wider view than living in the moment.

With the Miami Heat, such pause and such context allows for perspectiv­e of a bigger picture than the 30-25 record or No. 7 seed.

Suchas... Change is afoot: You can see it and you can sense it, a youth movement refusing to be denied.

For all the talk of an older, veteran roster, the departure of Kyle Lowry in favor of Terry Rozier already has altered the dynamic, as have the games that Jimmy Butler has missed.

Inside the locker room Wednesday night at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelph­ia, there was Kevin Love and otherwise a bunch of kid stuff.

The transition is real, and promising, not only with the growing maturity of Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro, but with the supporting youth of Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Nikola Jovic, as well as Duncan Robinson and Haywood Highsmith still in their 20s.

And that could make it particular­ly intriguing when Jimmy Butler, weeks ahead of his 35th birthday, comes to the table this summer seeking a two-year extension that would take him to 38.

It’s almost as if the eight-year extension announced for Erik Spoelstra last month was a bridge to coaching the team’s next iteration, as well.

For the Heat, a transition game seemingly already is playing out beyond the court.

With patience also required:

But that doesn’t mean the change has to be immediate.

Jovic still is just 20 and still is plenty raw. Yes, he fits in the starting lineup when other playmakers are out, as was the case with the starts this past week in the absence of Butler.

But when the Heat have Butler, Herro and Adebayo on the court, it mitigates much of what Jovic does best with his bust-out dribbles in transition.

The reality is that further tweaking to the roster, or at least the rotation, likely will be required for the Heat to maximize Jovic’s intriguing potential at 6 feet 10.

As for Jaquez, and the recent dropoff in his numbers, context also is needed there, with his best play coming when Herro and then Butler were sidelined.

Even if the role is reduced the rest of the way, it still is more than anyone could have expected from No. 18 in last June’s draft.

As with Jovic, it is the next iteration of the Heat roster that could unlock something closer to the complete Jaquez that was on display the season’s first two months.

Most Malleable Player: No, not necessaril­y most valuable Heat player to this stage, but what Herro has done this season deserves credit amid the team’s culture of sacrifice.

Because of the predominan­ce of mid-range attempts from Adebayo, Butler, and now even Rozier, Spoelstra had to turn to someone else to take his game elsewhere. So now it’s 3-pointers, rim attempts, or bust from Herro.

Then, with Lowry first off his game and then off his roster, an alternativ­e at point guard was needed. Enter Herro.

As for those games – actually several games – missed by Butler, a closer was needed. Again, Herro time.

The trade rumors could have crushed. Instead, Herro has crushed it with a selflessne­ss all too often overlooked.

Study in resilience: Based on all those dispatches from Rumorville, Robinson was supposed to be part of any team but the Heat at this point, at times more salary-cap ledger entry than South Florida staple.

Yet for all the consternat­ion from some quarters, Robinson’s five-year, $90 million contract has bordered on value added, with the Heat 10-0 this season when he scores 20 or more.

Spacing has never mattered more in the NBA. Arguably, neither has Robinson to the Heat.

By standing by Robinson, the Heat largely have been able to offset the free-agency loss of Max Strus.

The next move . . . : . . . might not be any move at all, or even needed.

The forthcomin­g signing of Delon Wright off the buyout market should take care of that, giving the Heat an in-the-moment fill-in for sidelined Rozier and Richardson, and then a defensive backcourt component at closing time.

Yes, getting bigger also could be better. But the Heat whiffed in the offseason with the free-agency move for Thomas Bryant. There is no need to compound that miscalcula­tion when Spoelstra has Love locked in as his backup center and appears intent on playing small at power forward.

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 ?? JOHN MCCALL/SOUTH FLORIDA SUN SENTINEL ?? Heat center Thomas Bryant and guard Josh Richardson react after a basket against the Celtics during the first half Feb. 11 at Kaseya Center in Miami.
JOHN MCCALL/SOUTH FLORIDA SUN SENTINEL Heat center Thomas Bryant and guard Josh Richardson react after a basket against the Celtics during the first half Feb. 11 at Kaseya Center in Miami.

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