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Mandate clear for Heat’s glue guys: Hold it all together, stick with it

Mandate clear for Heat’s glue guys: Hold it all together, stick with it

TORONTO — With Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro again on the court together, the mandate has become clear for the Miami Heat’s glue guys — hold it all together and stick with it.

“Like Coach says,” forward Caleb Martin said, “you need your stars to be stars, and you need guys like us to star in our roles.

“Everybody has to do their job in order for it to work. Half the team can’t do it. A quarter of the team can’t do it. It doesn’t matter who you are. Like Coach says, you need all hands on deck.”

For Martin, Haywood Highsmith, Josh Richardson and others playing in support, it is as simple as doing their jobs so that Butler, Adebayo and Herro can do theirs.

“The good thing for guys like us is there’s starting to be more value in guys like us around the league,” Martin continued, with the Heat closing their two-game trip Wednesday night against the Toronto Raptors at Scotiabank Arena. “Because you can put as many big names as you want on teams and a lot of times it doesn’t get done because you’re missing those pieces.

“It’s a different era of basketball, where you used to be able to win with a couple of stars on your team. And now across the league, you see a lot of teams that make it far have to do a lot with their glue guys.”

For stretches this season, the Heat were without their glue, Martin with knee and ankle issues, Highsmith with knee and back injuries, Richardson with heel and back problems.

But with the roster closer to whole, save for the groin injury that has Jaime Jaquez Jr. out and the knee contusion that has Kevin Love sidelined, the Heat again have versatility with their supporting options.

“When you say a role player, some people look at that the wrong way,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “You need guys that absolutely embrace a role, that can complement your better players.”

Highsmith showed that with his recent return from concussion protocol.

“He does that defensively,” Spoelstra of Highsmith. “Offensively, he’s important in terms of spacing the floor, but also knowing when to cut and play off the ball, things of that nature. His confidence has grown over the last two years.”

While Highsmith, Martin and Richardson all have started this season, they each recognize a primary function of supporting.

“For sure,” Highsmith said. “I think us at full health is very scary. You know, we’re a deep team. We’ve got guys out right now and we’re finding ways to win without some of our better players.

“I think once we’re fully healthy, it’s going to be very interesting to see how we all play as a unit, because we’ve got a lot of guys who can defend, score.”

Having now lived both sides of the equation, once a leading man, now part of Spoelstra’s support system, Love appreciates the appreciation that is in place for the connective tissue provided by the glue guys.

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“It’s huge,” he said. “Our three main guys make up so much of what we do out there on the floor. But our X-factors and glue guys, they’re huge.

“It just goes to show you, all of this stuff means a lot to us. We’re the type of team, we thrive on having the entirety of our roster available and ready to play. But we’ve been fighting an injury bug.”

From Spoelstra, there is an appreciation that his supporting players have a role model in Love, who has provided what has been asked, even when arguably capable of providing or demanding more.

“He’s a glue guy. He’s a connector,” Spoelstra said. “He makes a lot of lineups look better, and that’s what great players do. He’s fully embraced this role. We’ve embraced him, as well. He’s a value added big time.”

“It doesn’t take a lot to figure out why it works. If you can get a player at this stage of their careers where they embraced this kind role, that’s a great thing.”