Heat’s Shabazz Napier shows little rust in return to court

Point guard Shabazz Napier played 17 minutes in his return for the Heat on Wednesday.

Lynden Blake

ORLANDO, Fla. — For the first time since late March, point guard Shabazz Napier donned his Miami Heat jersey.

The second-year guard, who underwent surgery for a sports hernia April 1, returned to the Heat lineup and made his summer league debut Wednesday evening, making the game winning free-throws in an 87-85 win over the Los Angeles Clippers, keeping their record perfect at 4-0.

Summer league head coach Dan Craig said he didn’t plan to play Napier for the 17 minutes he did, but with Tyler Johnson leaving the game due to a hard hit that resulted in a lost tooth, Napier got extra time on the court.

"It was great to have Shabazz back tonight," Craig said. "He’s been putting a lot of work in, and he didn’t look like he skipped a beat."

Napier contributed 14 points, four rebounds and six assists to the Heat win, and said he felt good, but will continue to work on getting back to 100 percent.

"It felt weird in the beginning because I haven’t played real pick-up ball in almost three months, so it felt weird, but I felt comfortable once I got into it," Napier said.

Craig said Napier got the Heat into offensive situations needed to get baskets, and he got the team organized when situations weren’t going their way.

Napier said his knowledge of the game is big, but it’s the feel of the game he has to get back after being out.

He said Miami has an incredible starting five, and he is happy to be with them.

"I have great vets, so you know I pick their brains a lot," Napier said. "I try to observe and be a sponge out there."

With him being a Summer League vet, Napier said he wants to have fun while showing his teammates the Heat culture.

"We want to play in championships," Napier said. "We want to win games, and we do it on the defensive end. I think everybody understands that on this team."

Napier had a great supporting cast his first game back.

Craig spoke highly of Willie Reed after another solid performance leading the team with 17 points and seven rebounds.

"He’s been our one constant," Craig said. "He gives us great minutes, and he was a leading rebounder again tonight against a very good rebounding team."

Craig said the team needed every single one of Reed’s rebounds, and the block he had toward the end of the game shifted momentum back Miami’s way.

James Ennis had 14 points and four rebounds, while Zoran Dragic delivered 12 points and three rebounds.

Justise Winslow only played in the first minutes of the game resulting in zero points, but Craig said the plan was to rest Winslow knowing they have to finish out play in Orlando before heading to Las Vegas next week for another summer league tournament.

The chances are good that Miami will play for the championship Friday at noon, but it depends on what the Orlando White and Memphis Grizzlies do Thursday.