Miami Heat Coach Credits ‘Experienced Champion’ for Turnaround

Andre Iguodala, LeBron James

Getty Three-time NBA champion Andre Iguodala impacts the game in so many different ways.

When the Miami Heat made a trade for Andre Iguodala at last year’s deadline, they made a two-year commitment to the one-time NBA Finals MVP. Iguodala’s leadership was instrumental in molding the Heat down the stretch. The same thing is happening again.

Iguodala gutted out 23 tough minutes against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday night, making his presence felt outside the box score. Head coach Erik Spoelstra called the 37-year-old the “anti modern-day analytic player” in his post-game Zoom call. While there has been talk of Miami possibly selling Iguodala’s expiring contract or trading him for Blake Griffin, it might hurt the team’s suddenly budding chemistry too much. Count Spoelstra firmly in the “must stay camp” for the three-time NBA champion.

“You can’t at all gauge his impact on winning just by those box score numbers because he does so many things that go unnoticed,” Spoelstra said. “It’s the extra pass, it’s the spacing, it’s being able to initiate offense. It’s being in the right spot defensively, rebounding or tipping balls, playing big underneath.

“It’s just a great luxury to have an experienced champion like him on your squad. Look, we understand it, Steve [Kerr] and the Golden State Warriors understand it, his value — and until you actually have him on your side and see how many ‘winning plays’ he makes, probably the average fan wouldn’t understand it.”

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Heat Players Excited for ‘Home-Cooking’

It’s been exactly two weeks since Heat players slept in their own beds or enjoyed a home-cooked meal. The team has been on the road since Feb. 9 and went 4-3 away from Miami. While that experience “built that brotherhood again,” per Heat center Bam Adebayo, it sure is nice to be back in South Beach.

“I’m excited to get home. I want to see my mom, I want to see my little dog,” Adebayo said. “I’m tired of using Uber Eats, it’s adding up. I’m ready to get a home-cooked meal and get in my bed.”

Jimmy Butler agreed with Adebayo, adding he missed playing tennis more than anything.

“It’s always good to be home, sleep in your own bed, drink Big Face Coffee every morning,” Butler said, with a nice product plug. “It’s always good, get back to my tennis lessons, a lot of things I’ve been missing … my family, my people … but I really miss my tennis game.”

Butler Gives Team Pep Talk From Bench

Spoelstra’s squad was rolling on Monday night so he decided to give Butler a seat on the bench to start the fourth quarter. The Heat stormed out on a 15-0 run, but the star forward wanted his teammates to keep their foot on the gas. Which they did, much to Butler’s delight who rested for the full 12 minutes.

“It was great, just that enthusiasm, I think those guys wanted to play well while he was on the bench,” Spoelstra said. “We took that first timeout [in the fourth quarter] and I looked at Jimmy and Jimmy was in the huddle and he said ‘Hey guys, keep going, let’s get another two or three minutes, see how it goes’ and I think that energized the group and they were able to create even more separation.”

Butler finished with 15 points and nine assists in 20 minutes during an impressive 108-94 win — and he was more excited about being a spectator on the bench.

“When they’re clicking like that, when they’re rolling, let them do what they do,” Butler said. “They were playing incredibly well on both ends of the floor. I need everybody to gain as much experience as possible.”


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