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Erik Spoelstra Talks Heat Return And How Depth Will Benefit Them

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For the first time since the NBA suspended its season on March 11 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Miami Heat have begun mandatory individual workouts in preparation for the league’s planned resumption at Walt Disney World in late July.

While Heat players and staff won’t suit up for seeding games until August 1 against the Denver Nuggets, they’ll be making their way to the Disney campus via bus on July 8. Everyone involved will be mandated to quarantine in their hotel rooms — Heat will be at the Gran Destino Tower — until each person brings back two negative tests for COVID-19 at least 24 hours apart from each other. Soon after, Miami will be allowed to start training camp and settle into what will be home for nearly two months, depending on how far they make it in the postseason.

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra spoke to reporters through a Zoom call on Wednesday. Here’s what he had to say, via Anthony Chiang, Will Manso and Ira Winderman:

— According to coach Spoelstra, Tyler Herro (right ankle soreness) and Meyers Leonard (sprained left ankle) are both fully healthy now. Herro missed 15 of the Heat’s final 16 games with his lingering ankle injury. Leonard missed Miami’s last 16 games prior to the NBA suspending the 2019-20 season.

— Both of Miami’s two-way contract players, Gabe Vincent and Kyle Alexander, along with the other 15 players on the roster will travel with the Heat to Disney, Spoelstra said. Vincent, 23, played just six games with the Heat this season, averaging 2.0 points, 0.5 rebounds and 0.5 assists. Alexander, 23, has yet to touch the floor with the Heat.

— Spoelstra’s decision to bring all 17 players to Disney is a matter of keeping their depth balanced. “Our depth is really one of our biggest strengths,” he noted. “We can go three deep, really in any position. In a circumstance like this, I really think it’s gonna be more of a sprint than a marathon. We will be in uncertain circumstances where we may be required to use that depth because of any number of circumstances that are unpredictable.”

— Spoelstra confirmed that Derrick Jones Jr. is the only Heat player to have tested positive for COVID-19. While he hasn’t returned to the practice facility, Jones has been doing his own workouts at home. “Derrick is quarantining. He’s working out, doing Zoom workouts,” Spoelstra said. Jones Jr. tested positive for the virus last week, but is said to be asymptomatic and intends to play at Disney.

— Of his thoughts on having to stay away from family for a long period of time, he said, “The realization that we’re a week out [from going to Disney], that hit home a little bit more so today for me, personally. … We’re no different than anybody else. We are going through all these emotions. Thinking about preparing for a bubble situation and trying to make sure that we keep the main thing and keeping everyone safe. That’s the No. 1 thing. I think we all are experiencing a level of anxiety and angst and stress about being away from our families for an extended period of time.”

— Addressing Miami’s success at home but struggles on the road this season, he said, “I think that’s something we were getting better with,” Spoelstra said. “We’re in Florida, maybe I’ll just tell our guys we’re playing at home every day.” Prior to the NBA’s hiatus, the Heat held a 27-5 record at home, but a 14-19 record on the road.

— Because of the circumstance the NBA is in today, Spoelstra believes this championship might be “certainly the most worthy of all world championships in the NBA,” he said. “Because of all the things every team in the NBA is going to have to navigate and overcome to be able to be crowned a champion.”

— Spoelstra supports Jimmy Butler’s proven leadership, saying that he thinks “The competition and leading a group brings out the best in him.” Butler was a major facet to Miami’s 41-24 record in his first season with the Heat.

Michael Yero covers all of South Florida’s major pro teams, along with high school sports for 305 Sports. He also covers sports for Immaculata-La Salle High School’s student newspaper, the Royal Courier.

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