Two days after the Miami Heat‘s playoff run officially came to a close following a heartbreaking 100-96 loss to the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, head coach Erik Spoelstra addressed the media for his final interview session for the 2021-22 NBA season.
Immediately following the Heat’s defeat, rumored reports started flying over possible blockbuster trades that could upgrade the team for next season. While Bleacher Report’s NBA Insider Adam Borai tweeted on May 30, “The Miami Heat lost to the one team that makes Pat Riley’s blood boil. So rest assured, the upgrades are coming. Jimmy Butler deserves to win a championship in Miami,” — Spoelstra basically said not so fast on Tuesday, May 31.
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While such restructuring decisions include the input of Heat president Pat Riley, the front office, and owner Micky Arison, if it was up to Spoelstra, there wouldn’t be any major changes from the team’s core group of players.
“Look at the history of how we’ve done things since Pat and Micky have created this culture,” Spoelstra said, as reported by Sun Sentinel‘s Ira Winderman. “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.”
As for the Heat’s pending free agents heading into the offseason, that list includes Victor Oladipo, Caleb Martin, and Dewayne Dedmon, all of whom held key spots in the rotation throughout the season. Two free agents that never secured regular minutes, veteran Markieff Morris and team captain Udonis Haslem.
“Of course, you’re talking 48 hours [after elimination] and after we had an opportunity on a make or a miss to possibly, potentially get to the next round,” Spoelstra continued. “Yeah, you want to have a chance to do it again with the same group. I love this group. I love the locker room. And I’m just really grateful we had an opportunity to collaborate and work together and experience everything this season.”
P.J. Tucker Can Opt-In to Free Agency, But It Seems Highly Unlikely
Heat forward P.J. Tucker‘s contract gives him the option to test out the free agency market this offseason but based on Spoelstra’s comments, it’s hard to imagine the 37-year-old defensive stalwart going anywhere next season.
Back in November, we referred to Tuckers as Spoelstra’s “new favorite player,” and since then, little has changed.
“He was so important all across the board. P.J. has a way of inspiring everyone in the locker room,” Spoelstra said on Tuesday.
“He’s so unselfish, always taking on the biggest challenges. He will do all the dirty work. He never complains or talks about his shots. He’s completely selfless, an absolute throwback player. That’s why he’s beloved. If there’s something that surprises me, it would be the skill-level offensively. He’s such a high IQ player.”
Spoelstra Said Kyle Lowry Come Back in the Best Shape of His Life
Kyle Lowry, who signed a three-year $85 million contract with the Heat last summer, was one of the main reasons Miami entered the playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the East, however, the 36-year-old veteran fell apart during the postseason.
The six-time All-Star, who missed eight of the Heat’s playoff games due to a hamstring injury, said during the Game 7 postgame press conference that his first season in Miami was “a waste of a year. You’re… not winning a championship, it’s a wasted year.”
As for whether or not Lowry can return to his All-Star status next season, “one key will be determining what weight Lowry should return at,” Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson surmised after the Celtics punch their ticket to the NBA Finals, and Spoelstra addressed Lowry’s conditioning on Tuesday.
“You have to take into account everything, the missed games, the injuries, ramp up in the middle of the series,” Spoelstra said, as reported by Jackson.
“These are not excuses. It’s just reality. Kyle was in an incredible groove about six weeks before the playoffs. If we had started the playoffs now, it would be a perfect time for him. Kyle will come back next training camp in the best shape of his career. That’s important as you get further into your career and into your 30s… That is your ultimate opponent, father time, and Kyle understands that. He trains hard, works at it behind the scenes.”