Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra Reveals Under-the-Radar Trio He Misses Coaching

Erik Spoelstra Miami Heat

Getty Head coach Erik Spoelstra of the Miami Heat.

Erik Spoelstra has seen no shortage of talent in his 25 years as an assistant and head coach of the Miami Heat. Shaquille O’Neal, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Jimmy Butler, Kyle Lowry — the list goes on.

Three of those players teamed up to form one of the most devastating trios in the 21st century: James, Wade, and Bosh. “The Heatles” may not have lived up to their promise of delivering a baker’s dozen of rings to South Beach. Still, they certainly brought no lack of fanfare (and, hey, two rings are more than the Clippers, Nuggets, Timberwolves, Hornets, Grizzlies, and Pelicans have in their entire trophy case combined).

On Friday, Miami hosted the San Antonio Spurs in town, giving Spoelstra the opportunity to send some love to a former player: Josh Richardson. Richardson, currently with the Spurs, played with the Heat between 2015 and 2019. Spoelstra also threw in two more names of players he misses, along with Richardson.

“He was such a great fit here,” Spoelstra said of Richardson. “Those were some fun years. It was kind of a turning of the page, a different chapter for our organization. He and Justise and Tyler Johnson, they brought this youthful exuberance but they were pros. They really worked on their player development. J-Rich is one of those good guys to have on your team. He’s a two-way player. He’s got great spirit, a good attitude. He’s about the right things in this business.”

Heat Could Use ‘Youthful Exuberance’ Right Now

The Heat looked drastically different during Richardson’s four years in Miami than today. Call it the “awkward teen years” for the Miami Heat. Fresh off of James’ departure for the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Heat had a clunky lineup of aging stars (Wade, Bosh) and intriguing young talent (Richardson, Hassan Whiteside).

Slowly, though, the roster changed. The Heat drafted big man Bam Adebayo from Kentucky, which has worked out pretty well for all parties involved.

Unfortunately for Richardson, however, he would be shipped out of town right as the Heat hit its zenith. And, had it not been for a deal sending Richardson to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for Jimmy Butler, it’s hard to imagine the Heat having the sort of staying power it’s managed over the last four seasons.

Richardson, for his part, has yet to find his Heat form. The best season of his career was his final one in Miami in which he managed 16.6 points on 35.7 percent from three as a starter. Since then, Richardson has struggled to find the same staying power — the Spurs are his fourth team since leaving the Heat.

Spurs Loss Highlights Concerning Trend for Heat

A week and a half ago, the Heat were celebrating the return of Jimmy Butler to the lineup with a big win over the 18-5 Boston Celtics. Almost certainly the best team in the league, the Celtics fell to the Heat 120-116 in a game that allowed all of South Beach to breathe a collective sigh of relief — ah, this is what our full team is capable of.

Since that win, the Heat have dropped mind-numbing games to the Detroit Pistons and San Antonio Spurs, both of which have fewer combined wins than the Celtics.

Over the team’s last five games, the offense has been anemic, scoring just 109.2 points per 100 possessions. The season-long average isn’t much better — 110.9 — the sixth-worst mark in the league.

Integrating Butler and Herro back into the lineup at full strength should do wonders for the Heat. But until then, it’s been seriously uninspiring play from a team that usually prides itself of finding ways to win, even when overmatched talent-wise.