ORLANDO, Fla. — The on-the-court education of Miami Heat rookie guard Shabazz Napier continued Tuesday at the Orlando Pro Summer League.
Off the court, he prefers to be left in the dark regarding all the free-agent speculation and commotion surrounding the team that acquired his draft rights two weeks ago.
While the former UConn point guard saw his turnover totals go down for the second game in a row, Napier blamed himself for missing a free throw in the final 30 seconds and settling for a jump shot after the Detroit Pistons rallied down the stretch to take a 79-78 lead. The 20-footer bounced off the rim, and the Heat ended up losing for the second time in three games in the week-long league.
"If we’d have won all three of our games and I played the same way I played, I’d be happy," he said after managing seven points on 3-of-11 shooting with two assists in 24 minutes. "That’s the type of person I am."
The type of person he’s not is one prone to watch the reports about whether LeBron James, who described Napier on Twitter last month as his favorite player in the draft, or Chris Bosh might be heading elsewhere Thursday when the NBA’s moratorium on transactions with free agents ends.
"I don’t watch it at all. I have no idea what’s going on," he said.
When that comment was met with a few incredulous stares, Napier repeated his no-nonsense approach: "I have no clue at all. I’m just out here trying to figure out how to adjust to the game much quicker. That’s my job."
Napier made headlines Saturday for missing his first 10 field-goal attempts and committing eight turnovers in his Heat debut. But he began to show flashes of promise during the fourth quarter of the loss to the Boston Celtics, and he was far more adept at running the offense and handling defensive pressure Sunday in a 110-91 victory over the Brooklyn Nets.
Although his 3-of-18 shooting performance from 3-point range with two games to go might look unsightly on the surface, Napier is proud that his turnovers dropped to five against the Nets and three against the Pistons.
"I can’t make all my shots," he said. "I’ve just got to prepare myself to make the shot, and if I miss it, it’s human error. The biggest thing I’ve got to control is my effort and trying to slow down my turnovers. And I think I’m doing a better job from my first game and my second game."
Napier is far from the first rookie point guard to experience growing pains in this atmosphere. Both Michael Carter-Williams and Trey Burke shot poorly and turned the ball over a bunch last summer for Philadelphia and Utah, and Orlando Magic first-round pick Elfrid Payton had an inauspicious debut Saturday.
Learning in a short period of time who likes to get the ball where makes that position more of a challenge.
"That’s one of the biggest things I’ve got to continue to get the feel for," Napier said. "We’ve got a great group of guys that were just put together a week ago. So you’ve got to understand what does James (Ennis) like, what does Justin Hamilton, what does Tyler Honeycutt like. It is tough, but day by day, practice by practice, I’m beginning to understand it much better."
Ennis, a second-round pick by the Heat last year who ended up playing in Australia, had an especially rough end to the loss to the Pistons. His foul behind the 3-point arc sent Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to the free-throw line, where he knocked down all three attempts. Then Ennis missed both of his free throws with the Heat clinging to a one-point lead.
"I’m just going to look back on this game as a learning experience, watch the film, and come back the next game and improve," he said.
The Heat have Wednesday off before returning to action Thursday against the Indiana Pacers.
"The coaching staff, the training staff, all these guys here are just wonderful," Napier said. "They treat me like I’m family already, and I’ve only been here for about two weeks. It’s super great to have their support."