Erik Spoelstra Explains Why Miami Heat Made Major Roster Switch

Duncan Robinson, Kyle Lowry

Getty The Miami Heat are tinkering with their starting lineup with Kyle Lowry out.

Erik Spoelstra keeps tinkering with the Miami Heat starting five, something the mad scientist has never been averse to doing. The savvy head coach likes to experiment in the regular season so his playoff rotations are balanced. Maybe even proven by that point.

So it was no surprise that he pulled Duncan Robinson from the first unit when he was struggling. He hadn’t started a contest since December 28 prior to Monday night. With Kyle Lowry still out due to personal reasons, Robinson stepped in and scored eight points in 18 minutes. The Heat beat the Toronto Raptors 104-99 while fielding a starting five of Robinson, P.J. Tucker, Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Gabe Vincent.

“We will continue to use our full roster as needed but we have to make some decisions right now to get everybody comfortable and confident and in rhythm,” Spoelstra told reporters. “I want to get back to that lineup you know whenever we can, when Kyle gets back here, and give it a chance. We’ll build our rotation from there and then we have the depth to be able to adjust and manage it as needed.”

He was referring to the original lineup coming out of training camp, one that swapped Vincent for Lowry. Spoelstra also used Dewayne Dedmon as his backup center over Omer Yurtseven. The Turkish big man never left the bench following Adebayo’s return from a broken thumb.

“That’s the role that he’s been in,” Spoelstra said of Dedmon. “We’re just trying to get to this as quickly as possible but Omer is fully on our minds and there were a couple of times in this game where I thought about throwing him in there. He’ll continue to work and prepare and he’ll be ready for his next opportunity.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown another wrinkle into everything, too. Spoelstra has been forced to trot out makeshift lineups, filled with G Leaguers and NBA retreads, to simply survive the grind of another unprecedented year. It’s finally (hopefully?) turning a corner.

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Tyler Herro’s Role Defined, Thriving Off Bench

Prior to the start of the 2021-22 campaign, word leaked out that Tyler Herro was going to anchor the bench. He was out of the starting five but would be counted on to pace the second unit. He would be the top scoring option there and see starter’s minutes. That plan has arguably been Spoelstra’s greatest move so far this season. Herro is averaging career highs in points (20.7) and assists (4.0) per game.

“Everybody knows on that [second] unit, that the ball is going to go to him [Herro],” Spoelstra said. “That he’s going to create some triggers for us and then his confidence is growing; and, lastly, he’s being infused with great confidence from the veteran players.”

Those veteran players — Spoelstra name-dropped Butler, Tucker, Adebayo, Lowry — have been in Herro’s ear all year. They are schooling him on the importance of film study and playing for something bigger, like a championship.

“They want to play for something very significant and those guys are smart,” Spoelstra said. “They realize that Tyler is a talent and they’re infusing confidence in him and want him to express himself out there and be aggressive out there. That’s worth its weight in gold for a young player.”

Jimmy Butler’s Ninth Triple-Double

Butler grabbed his 10th rebound in the closing seconds of Monday night’s win to record a triple-double. It marked his ninth career triple-double in a Heat uniform and tied Butler with LeBron James for the most in franchise history. He had 19 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists versus Toronto.

But it was the way he got that 10th rebound that had everyone talking. Adebayo cleared out the lane to allow Butler to grab the milestone board. Why? Because this Heat team genuinely enjoys playing with each other and understands what’s at stake.

“You want to support your teammates,” Spoelstra said. “And I don’t really have a problem with that either. Guys are aware when there are milestones or opportunities to have triple-doubles, and then guys are rooting each other on to be able to get to that. I think that’s healthy.”

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