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Heat’s Caleb Martin eager to finish what he doesn’t necessarily start

MIAMI — Caleb Martin wants to finish what he started. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he wants to start.

Confused? To a degree Martin wants it that way, the Miami Heat forward often at his best when playing as a high-octane ball of confusion, daring on defense, active on the attack.

But he also appreciates that to be at his best, there is something to be said about entering as an energetic burst off the bench.

So for as many lineups as coach Erik Spoelstra has woven in recent weeks, a constant has been Martin as sixth man.

“I really don’t care. I really don’t,” Martin said of starting. “Like I said, the biggest thing for me is getting minutes and finishing games. So it ultimately doesn’t matter if you come off the bench. If I’m playing 25, 30 minutes and I’m finishing games, I’m going to be able to produce.”

After a breakout series in last season’s Eastern Conference finals led to something far less in the NBA Finals against the Denver Nuggets, Martin’s motivation is to finish what he started last season.

He believes at least for now — with Spoelstra’s playoff rotations generally sprung at the last moment —– that a bench role suits him best.

“I think the difference is starting a game, you get thrown right in and you’re picking up adjustments on the fly, so it takes a little bit to kind of adjust,” Martin said, with the Heat opening their four-game homestand Friday night against the New Orleans Pelicans at Kaseya Center. “Being on the bench at the start, you get to see already the adjustments that are made for three-fourths of a quarter. So you kind of know more of what you’re doing and how to do it and what adjustments to make.”

Lately, it has been all about adjustments for Martin, who has been dealing with a sprained left thumb that possibly will require offseason surgery. The thumb is taped during games, with Martin otherwise wearing it in a leather brace away from the court.

While the ailment has led to some wayward shooting, it also has steeled his attentiveness.

“It kind of just makes you focus,” he said. “It makes you hone in on things. A lot of times with shooting, less is more. So sometimes it makes you go back to certain things, less movements, stuff like that.”

Then there is the potential for surgery that has been put on the backburner.

“This is also one of those things that depends on how it feels,” he said .”It’s something minor. It’s nothing crazy or I wouldn’t be able to still be playing on it. So it would be different if it was a different kind of injury. So it’s one of those things that’s a pretty quick fix.”

Which it might have to be.

Although he has one year left on the three-year, $20.4 million contract he signed in the 2022 offseason, it is a player option, with Martin likely to exceed next season’s $7.1 million option with a move into free agency.

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And that decision could also play into the ultimate role preference, whether to cast himself as a supportive starter or bench boost.

“I enjoy the bench,” he said. “More of it is just clarity, just kind of knowing the pockets when you’re going to go in, windows you’re going to get in and just having to get more reps with different lineups.

“Now is the time of the year that you kind of know who you’re playing with and who you’re not, and that just seems to be getting easier as we’re playing.”

So, energy in reserve.

“We’ve just got a lot of guys that understand that’s our role, is to do that, is come off the bench and bring that energy, no matter how the game is going,” he said. “So we’ve got a lot of guys who really understand what needs to be done, and just understand their responsibilities off the bench.”