10-man rotation? Heat believes its depth is ‘one of the greatest strengths of this roster’

The Miami Heat believes its depth is one of its biggest strengths. But that depth has been tested by injury issues throughout the season.

Considering the only teams in the league with more missed games due to injuries than the Heat this season all have losing records and the Heat has held a winning record since early November, Miami’s depth passed the test. Now that the Heat has finally reached a point of relatively full health, coaches and players hope its depth proves to be an even bigger advantage as the start of the postseason nears.

“Sometimes things happen during seasons where you can’t control it,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said ahead of Sunday’s high-stakes matchup against the Indiana Pacers at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. “But now things look certainly brighter for us with basically our full health for the first time in a long time.”

Heat and Pacers set for Sunday showdown in Indianapolis. A look at what’s at stake

The Heat entered Sunday with the fifth-most missed games in the NBA this season because of injuries at 261 games, according to Spotrac’s injury tracker. The only teams with more missed games because of injuries this season are the Memphis Grizzlies (492 missed games), Portland Trail Blazers (310 games), Charlotte Hornets (288 games) and Atlanta Hawks (281 games).

But the Heat enters Sunday as healthy as it has been all season after guard Tyler Herro made his return in Friday’s road win over the Houston Rockets. Herro missed the previous 20 games because of a foot injury.

The only Heat players ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Pacers because of injury were Josh Richardson (right shoulder surgery) and Orlando Robinson (low back soreness).

“It’s great, it really is. It is great, especially for this stretch run,” Spoelstra said of the Heat’s improved health with just one week left in the regular season. “Our depth, we always felt that it was one of the greatest strengths of this roster.”

The Heat leaned on its depth in Friday’s win over the Rockets, using 10 players for double-digit minutes.

Terry Rozier, Duncan Robinson, Jimmy Butler, Nikola Jovic and Bam Adebayo started that game. The five-man bench rotation included Caleb Martin, Kevin Love, Herro, Haywood Highsmith and Jaime Jaquez Jr.

That left Thomas Bryant, Patty Mills and Delon Wright among those out of the Heat’s rotation on Friday.

Will the Heat continue to use a 10-man rotation or will Spoelstra need to tighten the rotation this postseason? That remains to be seen, with history indicating that a tighter rotation will likely be needed during the postseason.

But one thing is clear: When healthy, the Heat has plenty of options to turn to depending on the matchup or situation, whether it’s an eight, nine or 10-man rotation.

“Right now, we need everybody and that’s what we talked about in the meeting,” Spoelstra said. “This is not about role, it’s not about rhythm, it’s not about expectations. This is about pouring into the team, doing what we have to do to get wins. We all want the same thing. We want to be able to do something special in the postseason, but it takes a buy in and all-in mentality.”

It also takes functional depth, which the Heat has and can now use to its advantage with fewer players on the injury report.

“It’s a good thing that we can go 10 people into the rotation and everybody feels comfortable,” Butler said. “Everybody knows the plays and everybody knows where they’re supposed to be at. … That’s a good problem to have whenever you’re going into the playoffs. It’s a good problem to have whenever you’re trying to be as deep as possible.”


NBA head coaches wore custom designed Autism Acceptance-themed sneakers from Nike this past week as part of an initiative aimed to raise awareness and funds for autism resources and services in honor of Autism Acceptance Month this April.

“It’s something that speaks to my heart,” Spoelstra said of the initiative. “Obviously, I’ve been involved with the WOW Center and Learning Experience School in Miami. ... When you get to know people — kids and adults — with autism, they’re just like us. People that want to be seen and want to feel valued, want to have experiences like all of us. I think this is a great way just to show awareness. Hopefully more people will get involved in the cause.”

This had Spoelstra wearing custom-designed Air Force 1s in honor of Austism Acceptance Month during Friday’s win over the Rockets in Houston.

“They’re Air Force 1s,” Spoelstra said. “I have a pair of these at home, too. But I’m doing my best job to be a facsimile of Kevin Love. He rocks Air Force 1 as much as I rock Air Jordan 3s.”