MIAMI (AP) — A pair of supposedly meaningless preseason games could become an all-or-nothing scenario for those fighting for jobs with the Miami Heat.
And by Sunday or Monday, an overcrowded locker room will likely become a touch less occupied.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra likes to say — though he can’t usually do it with a straight face — that he thinks he’s figured out who three starting spots will go to this season.
So congratulations, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh.
To absolutely no surprise, you’ve won starting jobs with the Heat.
Carlos Arroyo may have the inside track toward starting at point guard, and Joel Anthony is the favorite to be the first-string center. Everything else remains a mystery, especially toward the back end of the roster, and this weekend’s preseason games against Oklahoma City and San Antonio will answer a lot of questions about who’ll wind up making this Miami team.
“Guys want to try to make the team, so it’s not about pressing,” James, the two-time reigning NBA MVP, said after practice Thursday. “It’s about just trying to go out there and I guess showing them what you can do to help our team. You’ve got to respect that.”
The Heat have 19 players on the floor in camp, 20 when counting rookie Da’Sean Butler, who continues to recover from surgery to repair a knee ligament he tore while playing for West Virginia in last spring’s NCAA Final Four.
Only 15 will be on the roster when the season starts Oct. 26. Some calls are no-brainers.
Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller, Eddie House and Mario Chalmers are on the team. Juwan Howard has been a favorite of Heat president Pat Riley’s for years, and his veteran presence is a commodity. James Jones could have gone elsewhere; the Heat said they desperately wanted him back. It’s possible Miami keeps four centers, with Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Jamaal Magloire and Dexter Pittman joining Anthony.
The Heat like what Patrick Beverley has shown in camp, and rave about Kenny Hasbrouck’s toughness. Shavlik Randolph knows the Heat system after spending some time with the team last year. And they consider Butler to be first-round talent.
Right there, that’s 18 players already — which proves that tough calls are looming.
“I might sit some guys out particular games so we can look at people,” Spoelstra said. “We have a lot of guys. We’ll probably make some decisions after this trip.”
Miami plays Oklahoma City in Kansas City on Friday, then heads to San Antonio the next night.
When Pittman played his college ball at Texas, he was just hoping for an NBA look. Now with the Heat returning to Big 12 country for a couple of nights, he’s hoping that whatever minutes he gets on this trip move him closer to an NBA job.
“I know that the Heat organization, they make smart moves,” Pittman said. “If they decide to keep me or let me go, then that’s what’s was best for the team. It’s like when you’re in love with someone. You want what’s best. You can let ’em go or keep ’em. But it’s a business. All I can do to help myself is come in here and work hard.”
Having an abundance of options from which to choose the members of a rotation and find the final names to place on the roster is the proverbial nice problem to have, Riley said on the eve of camp.
“Well, when you start to have to be worried about the bottom of your roster, then you’re in good shape, OK?” Riley said. “I mean, for about two years here, we were always worried about the top of the roster, did we have enough?”
That’s no longer a question.
The big one that remains is who’s coming along to play the less-glitzy, yet still vital roles.
“You try not to think about it,” Beverley said. “You just try to get better. Every day I walk in here, try to get better, try to compete, learn some new things. That’s what’s up to me.”