The Miami Heat did something Saturday that it hopes it never has to do for the remainder of the season.
The Heat played without both of its All-Stars. Bam Adebayo was not yet ready to play after just one team practice following his late arrival to Walt Disney World and Jimmy Butler was given the day off.
Without Adebayo and Butler, the Heat battled but ultimately fell to the Utah Jazz 101-99 on Saturday afternoon in its second of three scrimmages at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista. Miami won its first scrimmage Wednesday against the Sacramento Kings.
While the first scrimmage featured 10-minute quarters, Saturday’s exhibition included the standard 12-minute periods.
The Heat closes its three-game scrimmage schedule with an exhibition game against the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday at 2 p.m. Miami’s real games begin on Aug. 1, when it opens its eight-game “seeding” schedule against the Denver Nuggets.
Five takeaways from the Heat’s scrimmage loss to the Jazz on Saturday at HP Field House …
1. After just one team practice in more than four months, Heat rookie guard Kendrick Nunn was back in the starting lineup Saturday.
Nunn took part in his first formal team practice Friday since March, after joining the team at Disney on Tuesday and coming out of his required in-room quarantine upon arrival on Thursday. Following Friday’s practice, he declared himself “ready to play.”
Coach Erik Spoelstra took Nunn’s word and started him, alongside Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, Derrick Jones Jr. and Meyers Leonard.
Nunn, 24, logged 18 minutes and finished with five points on 2-of-7 shooting, two rebounds and three assists. He scored his first points on his fourth shot of the game, a reverse layup.
“It’s more than just evaluating him right now,” Spoelstra said. “It’s just great to have him at the last two practices and then get some minutes tonight. Anything tonight was a bonus. It was extra. I wasn’t even necessarily planning on playing him, but he wanted to. He’s in really good shape, you can tell, and he got his feet wet just enough.”
Of his Disney debut, Nunn said: “It felt good. It’s a different type of rhythm you’ve got to get, other than just working out. That game shape is different. But it felt good getting up and down, and to get my rhythm back.”
2. But Adebayo did not play in Saturday’s scrimmage after just one practice with the team.
Adebayo entered the NBA bubble alongside Nunn on Tuesday evening, with a COVID-19 diagnosis delaying their arrivals. And like Nunn, Adebayo went through his first formal team practice Friday since March.
The fact that Adebayo was held out Saturday isn’t surprising, especially after Adebayo said he felt “scared” during Friday’s practice “just because I haven’t hooped in a long time. So being out there the first time, it was kind of like right foot, left foot, kind of going through the moments, just getting your feet under you.”
“I think we’re going to get him another workout,” Spoelstra said Saturday of the team’s plan for Adebayo. “He really wants to feel a little bit more comfortable.”
Without Adebayo helping to protect the paint for the Heat, Jazz All-Star center Rudy Gobert took advantage with 21 points on 8-of-9 shooting, eight rebounds and two blocks in 24 minutes.
After a few more days of work, it’s certainly possible that Adebayo will be ready to play in Miami’s third and final scrimmage Tuesday against the Grizzlies. The All-Star center has just one week to prepare before the Heat begins its seeding schedule on Aug. 1.
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3. The Heat wasn’t just missing Adebayo. Miami played without both of its All-Stars, as Butler was given the day off.
Butler also played limited minutes in the Heat’s first scrimmage. The 30-year-old finished Wednesday’s scrimmage opener against the Kings with nine points, three rebounds and two assists in 11 minutes, and did not play in the second half.
With Adebayo and Nunn back with the team, the next week will be important in working them both back into the starting lineup. Spoelstra opted to make sure Butler is rested for that process, with the start of seeding games just days away.
Butler is averaging team-highs in points (20.2), assists (6.1) and steals (1.7) in his first season with the Heat.
Considering the way Spoelstra has handled the first two scrimmages, it would not be surprising to see the Heat treat Tuesday’s exhibition as the “dress rehearsal” with Adebayo potentially available to make his Disney debut.
4. Without both of its All-Stars, the Heat needed others to create offense. Center Kelly Olynyk stepped up and helped fill some of the void.
Olynyk contributed an impressive stat line that included a game-high 27 points on 10-of-16 shooting from the field and 3-of-7 shooting on threes, eight rebounds and two assists in 29 minutes off the bench Saturday. He was also sharp in Wednesday’s scrimmage opener, finishing with 12 points, six rebounds and four assists in 23 minutes.
This is good news for the Heat, with the post All-Star break version of Olynyk making an appearance in the Heat’s first two scrimmages.
Following a slow start to the season as he worked his way back from an offseason knee injury, Olynyk averaged 8.2 points while shooting 60 percent from the field and 66.7 percent on threes in 14.1 minutes over 11 games after the All-Star break. Then the season was suspended.
So far, it looks like Olynyk is healthy and ready to continue his post All-Star break play.
“We’ve had a lot of guys stand out during camp. He has had one of the better camps,’ Spoelstra said of Olynyk’s first two weeks of practices at Disney. “He’s in tremendous shape right now. He really worked at it in May and June.”
Olynyk said after Saturday’s scrimmage that his physical health is “definitely night and day” compared to when he was held out of preseason training camp in October because of the knee injury.
The looming question is: Will Olynyk be given a consistent spot in the Heat’s rotation with starting center Meyers Leonard back from an ankle injury? Leonard missed 16 consecutive games prior to the league shutdown because of a sprained left ankle.
Leonard has started in each of the 49 games he has played this season. And Olynyk and Leonard have played just one minute together this season, so it’s going to be one or the other on the court. To get them both consistent court time, Spoelstra will need to find a way to split their minutes.
If every Heat player is available, as is expected when seeding games begin Aug. 1, Olynyk stands potentially as the 11th man. Depth remains a strength for Miami.
5. Herro was also impressive against the Jazz, carrying a big part of the offensive load with Adebayo and Butler out.
The Heat’s rookie guard started the game and finished with 20 points on 8-of-16 shooting from the field, seven rebounds and four assists in 31 minutes. Much like in the Heat’s scrimmage opener, Herro again played most of his minutes in the point guard role.
But his Disney debut did not go as well, as Herro finished Wednesday’s exhibition against the Kings with one assist and four turnovers. The 20-year-old still managed to score 15 points on 5-of-14 shooting in the scrimmage opener.
“He’s fearless,” Spoelstra said. “But you can see how he’s continuing to develop his skill level. He’s not just a shooter. He’s a driver, he’s a playmaker. He had a couple good looks off the dribble. That makes him dynamic. That playmaking ability, and that will only continue to get better as he learns how to read defenses and as his body gets stronger.”
As part of improving his on-ball game, Herro said he has studied film of Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker and Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum.
“There are a lot of different guys that coach shows me, examples of things I can do,” Herro said. “Taking extra dribbles, making that right pass, getting off the ball early, just doing certain things with the ball in my hands that I can take from different guys’ games. I’m grateful to be as young as I am. I can learn from a lot of different people.”