MIAMI – Perhaps the writing was on the wall even before the Miami Heat arrived at Thursday’s NBA trading deadline – the determination that they were going to make this work with Terry Rozier and Tyler Herro, that it wasn’t a case of Rozier arriving so Herro could possibly leave.
In restructuring his team’s rotation in the two games prior to the trade deadline, coach Erik Spoelstra had played Rozier and Herro together as much as any Heat duo, for 53 of the available 96 minutes.
Where there initially was the outside thought of staggering, the staging these past two games has told a different story.
Too small? Ball dominant? Defensively deficient?
To Spoelstra, a pairing only in need of time, minutes that have been in abundance this week.
“I think you’re going to see Tyler and Terry build an even better connection with more minutes, games, the shootaround, the film sessions and the few practices that we’ll have the opportunity to partake in,” Spoelstra said, with one of those practices coming Friday at Kaseya Center, amid this three-day break before the Super Bowl Sunday nationally televised game against the visiting Boston Celtics.
“But you see the speed, quickness and skill that they each have. And the two-man actions, or drive and kicks, slip screens, or the screens, any of these kinds of actions I think are tough to guard, particularly when they do it with a motor and burst, and doing things with a pace.”
Initially, the minutes had been staggered, Herro leaving early, then returning to run the second unit. Now Jimmy Butler returns from a quick early break to serve as playmaker, while Herro and Rozier wait together for their second act.
For Herro, an extended early run followed by an extended break has required an adjustment, leaving him less than a fan
“Not really,” he said of this new rotation cycle. “I prefer the other one, but I’ve got to make it work.”
So far, in a very limited sample size, it has worked, with the Heat having won four of their last five, after losing seven in a row amid the onboarding of Rozier after his Jan. 23 acquisition from the Charlotte Hornets for Kyle Lowry and a protected first-round pick.
“I think that they can give us a lot of firepower and a boost,” Spoelstra said, “and in the middle of different rotations.”
For Herro, now spared further trade speculation following the passing of the deadline, it is a case of both something old and something new.
In addition to the increased minutes alongside Rozier, the team’s third-most minutes in a two-man pairing the past two games has been Herro alongside center Bam Adebayo. In Wednesday night’s victory over the San Antonio Spurs, that led to Herro for the fourth game in his career assisting on five Adebayo baskets.
“You have to have a lot of versatility, a lot of different actions you can get to,” Spoelstra said of Herro-to-Adebayo. “You need firepower in this league to score against the best defenses. They’ve really worked intentionally in building that collaboration between the two of them for the last two or three years. And then now, when they have to anchor some units together, they know they have to lean on each other.
“It can’t be just them taking turns. They have to read the defense, read the scheme, and help each other generate the best shot for the team. And that comes with a maturity, comes with an experience, it comes with learning how to really impact winning. I really just commend them for working at it.”
Unlike with Rozier, where the learning curve is ongoing, the chemistry with Adebayo has proven easily recreated.
“I think that we got away from it for a little bit. And that’s not smart, I don’t think,” Herro said. “So just getting back to it the last couple of weeks or so, I think is good for us. We need to keep getting to that more and more.”
Adebayo said it is a payoff from work together behind the scenes.
“Watching film,” he said, “and also diving into that and repetition.”
To Herro, it is these couples nights out that can prove ultimately rewarding.
“Every night,” he said, “it might be a different guy.”