‘He’s a Great Shooter’: Miami Heat Coach Praises Veteran Forward

Kelly Olynyk, Tyler Herro

Getty The Miami Heat head into the All-Star break with a .500 record at 18-18 after a rough start to the season.

The ongoing chatter for the first half of the season has been all about what the Miami Heat are missing. They need another big man to pair with Bam Adebayo in the paint. They need another small forward who can knock down treys. They need another high-octane guard so Jimmy Butler can rest.

While all the above things could certainly help Miami for the stretch run, one thing hasn’t been considered: maybe the Heat doesn’t need anything. Goran Dragic just returned to the lineup and his play-making ability has invigorated the entire offense.

Meanwhile, Andre Iguodala “has the Fountain of Youth,” per head coach Erik Spoelstra — and Kendrick Nunn keeps proving why the franchise was wise not to trade him. And how about Kelly Olynyk? The veteran forward has a streaky shot, but when he’s on … he opens it up for everyone else.

“He’s been taking his shots aggressively and that’s what you want your shooters to do. He’s a great shooter,” Spoelstra told reporters on Thursday night. “He really does create some spacing for us and even more so when he plays the five. So he just continues to take them [shots] in rhythm and it’s just a matter of time with great shooters, and he really was able to open things up for us in the first half and give us some solid play, even defensively.”

Olynyk finished Thursday night’s game with 18 points and shot 87.5% from the field, including 4-of-5 from beyond the arc. He’s averaging 10.1 points and 5.9 rebounds per game while shooting 32.8% from deep. Olynyk’s statistics are very much in line with what Jae Crowder is doing for the Phoenix Suns.

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Jimmy Butler, Goran Dragic Getting Job Done

It’s been so much fun to monitor the love-fest between Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic on a nightly basis. The two veterans really do share the same brain when it comes to understanding the fundamentals of basketball. But even Dragic sat back in awe watching Butler close out the Heat’s 103-93 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday night.

“It’s great. You can say we trust him and we want him to have the ball in those moments and he always comes through,” Dragic said. “It’s really awesome to watch him. He knows what to do. He can manipulate the game, get to the free-throw line, he can make shots, he can involve everybody else.”

Butler scored 10 of his game-high 29 points in the final six minutes of the fourth quarter and unapologetically took the game over. Shockingly, New Orleans chose not to double-team him.

“What didn’t he do?” Spoelstra said.

Butler called it a great “team win” and heaped praise on Dragic for being the smartest player on the court.

“I love playing with Goran,” Butler said. “He’s so smart, he does everything well. Finishes obviously, shoots the trey ball, and gets everybody involved, and he’s basically running the offense … Goran is the key to us.”

Looking Forward to All-Star Break, Resting Up

Spoelstra said he and the training staff will “split everything up” over the All-Star break and decide how much rest to give the players. It’s been a hectic first half for the Heat after getting whacked hard with health and safety protocols. It sounds like he’s leaning toward letting the guys rest up and enjoy the time away.

“The season itself is fast. The pace has just been unrelenting, particularly the last six weeks,” Spoelstra said. “It literally feels like we haven’t had one of those two days in between, it’s either been every other day or back-to-back, and I think everybody feels like they could use a little bit of a breather.”

The Heat will get almost a week off before returning to host the Orlando Magic on March 11. They have nine back-to-backs in the second half of the season.


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