ATLANTA — Already without Tyler Herro due to the ankle sprain sustained in Wednesday night’s road victory over the Memphis Grizzlies, the Miami Heat also had to face the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday night without Jimmy Butler.
The team announced at Saturday morning’s shootaround at State Farm Arena that Butler would miss the game against the Hawks due to a personal reason, with the possibility of a return for Sunday’s road game against the San Antonio Spurs, the third stop on this four-game trip that concludes Tuesday night against the Charlotte Hornets.
There already had been question of whether Butler would be available for both games of the back-to-back set against the Hawks and Spurs. He previously was held out of the third game of the season, the second night of a back-to-back, against the Minnesota Timberwolves for what the team had listed as rest. The Heat received NBA approval from the league for that move. The plan, prior to Butler’s Saturday absence, had been for him to play against both the Hawks and Spurs.
With Herro out at least two weeks and currently in a walking boot, and with Butler away from the team, it left center Bam Adebayo with even greater responsibility in a week when he already had produced a triple-double in a victory over the Los Angeles Lakers and then a 30-point effort in the victory over the Grizzlies.
“Situations happen,” Adebayo said after the morning shootaround. “So we work hard in the summer so when we have situations like this when we’re down men, we can still get a win.”
Coach Erik Spoelstra, who had spent the previous two days working on a revised rotation without Herro, said Saturday there was no option but to re-recalibrate and move forward.
“It doesn’t make it more complex,” Spoelstra said. “We have guys that can step in and we’re not looking at this as a long-term thing. We’re looking at this as all hands on deck, figure it out, and do whatever we have to do.”
Without Herro’s 22.9 points per game and Butler’s 18.4, it further steeled Spoelstra’s determination to lean on the team’s defense.
“We’re getting there,” Spoelstra said of the Heat defense. “I’m seeing a lot more good things, a lot more multiple efforts, a lot more resolve defensively. It’s still not where I want it to be in terms of the consistency standpoint, but we’re making a lot more effort. The film and the numbers are showing that.
“We’re banging on the door of Top 10 (defensively). It’s not where we want to settle in. We’d like to be even better than that. But it’s getting closer.”
Without Herro for a longer term, and with the uncertainty with Butler, Spoelstra was asked if it might require a different shot menu from his team.
“It will depend. We’ll see,” Spoelstra said. “I’m not coming into this conceding that we’re going to have to play totally different. We still want to play to our strengths. We still want to get to our identity and do it more consistently.”
Back at it
Having made the 1,200-mile trip to Atlanta from Sioux Falls, S.D., where he had been working with the Heat’s G League affiliate, forward Cole Swider said Saturday he is ready for whatever comes next.
Swider is on a two-way contract, meaning he will split time between the Heat and Sioux Falls Skyforce.
“I don’t mind it. I’m a simple guy,” said Swider, who raved about the Skyforce’s arena, the Sanford Pentagon, as “a great shooter’s gym.”
“It was great because I got a little five-on-five action,” he said. “I hadn’t played five on five for a little bit, so it was great to get out there and play some five on five.
“Obviously it’s the life of a two-way, and whenever your number is called, you try to be ready. Hopefully I can make the most of my opportunity on this road trip.”
While some have to deal with the shock of the Miami-to-Sioux Falls assignment, Swider said that having played at Syracuse, he is more than familiar with the potential winter conditions.
“Pretty similar,” he said.
The brief time in Sioux Falls allowed Swider to reunite with Heat summer-league and training camp players such as Jamaree Bouyea, Drew Peterson, Alondes Williams and Justin Champagne. Bouyea on Saturday then signed a two-way deal with the Portland Trail Blazers.
“I think they’re going to have a great season,” Swider said of the Skyforce, “and hopefully I’ll be a part of that, as well.”