The Miami Heat saw something in James Ennis that made them seek a trade with the Atlanta Hawks to get him on draft day last week. Starting today, Heat fans can get their own look at him at the Orlando Pro Summer League against Utah in Orlando (Sunday July 7, 1 p.m., NBATV).
The 6-7 athletic forward with an impressive wingspan was the 50th pick in the 2013 NBA Draft out of Long Beach State and the first 49er drafted since 1998 who ended up with the back-to-back champs after being traded by the Atlanta Hawks for a future second-round pick. Speaking quietly in a corner near the training court's entrance after practice Saturday, James Ennis wasn't the most forthcoming player to have walked through these hallways by his own admission.
"I'm shy off the court but I need to get more vocal on the court. In college I didn't really talk a lot so that's what I need to work on."
He also noted he needed to work on his ballhandling to help with his transition to the pros. "That was the main key coming out."
More importantly he spoke honestly about getting better and working hard to make an impression on the coaching staff. The humble approach to his game is always refreshing to hear but the odds are nonetheless stacked against him with such few roster spots, if any, available.
Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra was present but only to observe while assistant Dan Craig is taking over head coaching duties during these two Summer League tournaments in Orlando and Las Vegas.
"He's in the mold of the type of player we're looking for," he said when asked about his initial thoughts on Ennis. "You never know in the second round and so you try to find somebody that fits your philosophy..the fabric of the type of player that you're looking for and James, on early sight, does. He's athletic, he's long, he has a defensive background, he can stretch it to the 3, all these things need to continue to be developed. But that's why we're looking forward to these next two weeks."
When the Heat coaching staff viewed film on Ennis before the NBA Draft, he "jumped off the screen with his athleticism and his length. Obviously, we like those type of players that can play multiple positions. He has very good potential in three-point shooting, particularly from the corner. These things all need to be developed. He can cover ground. We're excited to see him this summer and can we get him 100,000 reps this summer and see what happens after that."
Fellow Summer League temmate Jarvis Varnado, for one, likes the young man's potential noting he's "going to be a good player. Coach likes the long, wiry guys. He defends, he's a slasher and gets into the lane."
While Ennis said he's more comfortable at the 3, he also pointed out, as did Spoelstra, about his ability to play and defend multiple positions. With a team led by Pat Riley and Spoelstra, it's no surprise that he mentioned defense when asked what his strongest skill set was
"I think I'm a good fit (with the Heat). I just give it my all every time I step on the floor. I'm a team player, on and off the court."