Erik Spoelstra Sounds Off on Rookie Nikola Jovic Following First NBA Start

Erik Spoelstra

Getty Head coach Erik Spoelstra of the Miami Heat looks on during the first half against the Golden State Warriors

At the end of this offseason, the Miami Heat didn’t do much when it came to transactions. They were in talks for multiple blockbuster trades. The most talked about being Kevin Durant and Donovan Mitchell. However, the only real notable addition came from the NBA Draft with their first round pick Nikola Jovic. Even still, Jovic wasn’t expected to make an immediate impact with the Heat, but with time to develop could be a significant piece. Jovic had already impressed when given time, particularly when he had to play at center. Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra praised Jovic in the minutes he got at center in the preseason. 

“And that’s been at the five [center] and I really just kind of did it initially to just see what happens, and let’s just give him those minutes. He’s responded well. He’s had some really good moments. He’s had some moments where he’s gotten beaten up a little bit [and] he’s had some moments where he’s made some mistakes. 

“But he’s very coachable, he takes responsibility and he really works at trying to correct things that didn’t go well. And I think that also is a skill, when you can see something and not make the same mistake over and over and over.” 

Spoelstra Talks About Nikola Jovic After First Start

That performance in the preseason is perhaps the time that proved to Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra that he could trust Jovic in other minutes to play center, and on Thursday, November 17, the rookie started his first NBA game at center for the Miami Heat and had a 13 point and 3 rebound performance for the Heat. Spoelstra talked about his decision to play Jovic at center with Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel. 

“I was encouraged by his play. That’s not easy to do that,” coach Erik Spoelstra said of Jovic hitting the starting ground running. “We felt putting him with the starters would give him the best chance to be able to complement that group, and he was terrific, particularly in that first half.

“He played with a lot of energy, gave us some relief baskets. His skill level, his passing, all those things are good.”

Jovic has proven he has potential in every opportunity he has gotten, and Spoelstra talked about where he expects to see continued growth from the rookie big man. 

“He’s just going to continue to get a lot better with minutes, more time, more development, all of that,” Spoelstra said. “I was encouraged by him stepping in there and playing as well as he did on the road.”

Nikola Jovic on his First NBA Start

It’s about being ready, especially in the limited opportunities Jovic has gotten this season. However, each time he has been just that. Ready. 

“I was just waiting for them to call my name,” he said. “I was ready for whatever.”

Part of what makes Jovic’s potential so exciting is his ability to play multiple positions. Even center, which the Heat have need at with the recent injury to Omer Yurtseven. 

“I don’t think I need to change anything,” he said, “I just need to adapt. I think I can play multiple positions. It doesn’t bother me that I’m playing center. As long as I can help my team win, I’m going to do whatever I can.”