Dru Smith from afterthought to essential for Heat; Duncan Robinson with the anti-Wemby shake

CHARLOTTE — Coming out of training camp, there was question as to what, if any, role Dru Smith would have with the Miami Heat. When he was awarded a standard contract with a $425,000 guarantee, some eyebrows were raised.

But with Tyler Herro sidelined with a Grade 2 ankle sprain and with the Heat cautious with playing time for 37-year-old starting point guard Kyle Lowry, Smith has become a rotation staple.

Sunday, that meant 26:50 of playing time in the road victory over the San Antonio Spurs, with a needed 12-point contribution, including a key fourth-quarter 3-pointer.

“Dru,” coach Erik Spoelstra said, “was good throughout all the stuff that he does. Ninety percent of it doesn’t show up in the box score, but coaches and teammates understand what he does.”

Undrafted out of Missouri in 2021, Smith, 25, remains in his formative NBA stages, with 21 total games of NBA experience, including 10 last season while on a two-way contract with the Brooklyn Nets.

Still in big moments over the weekend against the Atlanta Hawks and then Spurs, he found a way to come up with big plays.

“I think just having confidence in the work that you put in, just understanding that I’ve worked as hard as I could to get to this point,” he said, with the Heat turning their attention to Tuesday night’s game against the Charlotte Hornets at the close of this four-game trip. “So when I do get my opportunities to be out there, play confident and play free.

“Yeah, I’m going to make mistakes at the end of the day. I’m still learning things like that. So continue to try to impact winning at the highest level.”

Related Articles

It has been two-way productivity from Smith. He entered the week third in the NBA at 3.8 deflections per game.

“Just trying to continue to impact winning more than anything else,” he said. “Really, whenever I get out there that is all I’m trying to do, is trying to make plays that are helping inch us close to wins.”

Stop and go

Included in Duncan Robinson’s 26-point performance Sunday was hitting 7-foot-4 Spurs center Victor Wembanyama with a pair of hard fakes.

One was shedding Wembanyama at the 3-point line with a pump fake and then sidestepping for a 3-pointer. The other was a stop-and-go hesitation move along the baseline that left Wembanyama in his wake for a reverse layup.

The baseline move was reminiscent of Steve Smith’s sleight during the Heat’s nascent days.

“Shout out, Smitty. Michigan State guy, but that’s alright,” said Robinson, a University of Michigan product. “But yeah, just trying to be aggressive in different ways, especially with (Herro) going down. He does so much for our offense, so it’s an opportunity for me to step in and do some different things.”

Sioux seasoning

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra indicated after Sunday night’s victory in San Antonio that second-year forward Nikola Jovic could be headed to the team’s G League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, for season after missing recent time due to an illness.

“We’re really encouraged by Niko’s development and how much he’s grown,” Spoelstra said. “We’ll figure out what the next step will be. It will probably be some time in Sioux Falls.

“The fact that he’s not playing should not be an indication of how we feel that he’s developed.”

Injury report

The Heat are listing Herro (ankle), Caleb Martin (knee), Jamal Cain (G League) and RJ Hampton (G League) as out for Tuesday.

Cain has been sent to the Sioux Falls Skyforce as part of his two-way contract.

Josh Richardson (back) is listed as probable.

Kevin Love (shoulder) and Smith (AC joint) are listed as available.