Erik Spoelstra spoke to reporters Tuesday, just two days after the Miami Heat fell to the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. And he said he’d like to keep the team together for next season.
NEW: Spoelstra hopes Heat keeps this team together. And Strus unhappy with 3-point call reversal. PLUS bunch of notes from exit interview day: https://t.co/1Ylo4cwkJJ— Barry Jackson (@flasportsbuzz) May 31, 2022
The Heat coach said that, “Anytime we’re close and have banged on the door, even if it ended in a disappointing loss, our history has shown that we usually bring the majority of the group back, the core back, and we take another shot at it.”
Now, that claim struck me as odd. The last time the Heat lost at home in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals — in 2005 — Pat Riley overhauled the supporting cast around Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal. He traded for Antoine Walker, Jason Williams and James Posey. He signed Gary Payton to be the backup point guard. Damon Jones, Eddie Jones and Keyon Dooling were all gone.
Besides, Spoelstra didn’t play Duncan Robinson, Caleb Martin or Dewayne Dedmon — all of whom were rotation fixtures — in Game 7. Tyler Herro only played seven minutes, but in fairness he shouldn’t have played while nursing that groin injury.
It is true that after the Heat lost in the 2011 NBA Finals, the Heat kept their main group together and added Shane Battier. After the 2020 NBA Finals, the Heat let Jae Crowder walk and added Avery Bradley and Moe Harkless, neither of whom panned out.
What happens this time? P.J. Tucker has a $7.2 million player option. He was such a great fit in Miami and I’m sure the Heat would love to keep him, but having the 37-year-old Tucker and 36-year-old Kyle Lowry in the starting lineup could be risky. I’d look to see if the Heat could find a regular-season starter at the power forward position and move Tucker to a reserve role.
And Spoelstra said that Lowry will come back next training camp “in the best shape of his career.”
The other big question is what the Heat do with Herro. The Sixth Man of the Year didn’t play well all playoffs long — even against the Atlanta Hawks — and is up for an extension this off-season. Do the Heat think he’ll be ready to be the fourth-best player on a championship team next season? Can Victor Oladipo be that person, now more than a year removed from his knee surgery?