Google the terms “Miami Heat” and “buck” and you’re just as likely to get results about Hassan Whiteside’s aquarium with the Heat’s swirling logo as the Pat Riley-led franchise trying to play the lottery.

So, no, it’s not the uneven start of Erik Spoelstra’s team.

But it’s about an unusual focus this season, with Frenchman Victor Wembanyama seemingly at the forefront of LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal, David Robinson and Tim Duncan.

Commissioner Adam Silver expressed concern, going so far as to offer snide comments about a football-style relegation, as if the NBA would/could ever promote the Sioux Falls Skyforce, Fort Wayne Mad Ants or Lakeland Magic. (Can you imagine the Los Angeles Lakers vs. the Delaware Blue Coats in the arena formerly known as Staples Center?)

But the prospect of tanking is real, with San Antonio, Utah and Charlotte already having concerns about squandering early-season wins (yes, you read that right).

In a sport with only five players, you can change everything – as was the case with LeBron and Shaq in the championship, and in San Antonio – with Robinson and Duncan.

Which brings us back to the Heat, a team that insists it has never gone deep in the tank during Riley’s regime, but has already done so at least twice.

The first time was in 2008, when it was thought that Derrick Rose or Michael Beasley could be such top prizes at the lottery level. Late that season, the Heat played around with the likes of Stefan Lasme, Blake Ahearn, and Kasib Powell before falling to the No. 2 pick in the lottery and settling for Beasley (with a not-so-cool outcome).

Then came the 2015 season finale, which the Heat thought they needed to lose to keep their best shot at being a top-10 pick. That one was a dud: Beasley, Henry Walker, James Ennis and Tyler Johnson played all 48 minutes that night against the Philadelphia 76ers, while Zoran Dragic was limited to 41 minutes only because of a foul (Udonis Haslem played the remaining seven minutes as the Heat’s lone substitute). .

As it was, even with a win over the even more desperate 18-64 76ers, the Heat were still able to maintain their lottery position.

As Silver noted in an interview with ESPN, with the league reducing lottery odds starting in 2019, with each of the three worst records getting a 14 percent chance at the first pick, tanking no longer has to go to the 15-67 extreme. 2007-08 heat. Last season’s 23 wins are still the best odds.

“It’s one of those things where there’s no perfect solution,” Silver said, “but we still think the draft is the right way to rebuild your league over time.”

But as the start of this season has shown, players still play to win, whether it’s former Heat guard Josh Richardson in San Antonio or former Heat center Kelly Olynyk in Utah, both of whom have had moments early in the season.

To some extent, with 20 of the 30 teams at least given some sort of playoff opportunity, counting the play-in round, it makes it easier for early-season teams to play both ways.

But, as Haslem said during the Heat’s three-game western sweep, there’s still sympathy for players on teams that play more for a French diet than a winning diet.

Because, yes, he was on both the 2007-08 and 2014-15 must-lose lists.

“It must suck, it must suck, I couldn’t imagine. I wouldn’t want to be part of a team like that,” he said of this season’s lottery picks. “Unfortunately, sometimes the business side of things takes over the sports or competition part. Sometimes business comes first.”

Instead, Haslem was part of a variety of one-and-done rosters for the Heat when it came to the playoff rounds.

“I wouldn’t want to be in that situation,” he said of rosters expected to lose, and lose a lot. “I like that every year we are competitive. I like the fact that we do our homework and do our due diligence and we find guys outside of the lottery that can come in and contribute and we compete every year.

“If it wasn’t for that, there wouldn’t be opportunities for undrafted guys like me.”

The slogan to the finish line in 2008 was one that he would not have wished on any of the tankers of this season.

“I wanted to be involved this season,” he said, insisting he could have ruined the Heat’s lottery chances. “When I had [foot] surgery, I cried because I wanted to go out with these guys.”

Still, with games like Indiana next Friday, it’s clear the Pacers are playing for the future, the lottery and, hopefully, international intrigue.

“I understand again that business has an edge over competition,” Haslem said. “I look around and see what Utah is doing. I see a pattern. But it sucks to be guys out there right now, in that position.”

In the summer, Haslem attended Olynyk’s wedding. While Olynyk was on the rebuilding Detroit Pistons, Haslem mentioned that he was trying to get his friend back to the Heat. Instead, Olynyk became part of the Danny Ainge showdown in Utah.

“In those situations, I would tell those guys to play as hard as they can,” Haslem said. “Because at the end of the day, you’re still auditioning for a different team in a different situation.”


MONEY SAVINGS: Turns out the Heat got back (at least temporarily) about $30,000 in luxury-tax wages with the NBA’s one-game suspension Caleb Martin and Nikola Jovich for a fight against the Toronto Raptors last Saturday. Teams get salary cap relief from NBA suspensions, but not from team suspensions (like the Heat suspensions Dion Waiters in the 2019-20 season). However, this additional relief in cases like Martin and Jovic can be lost if the player successfully appeals such suspensions, and that total will be restored against the cap, even if much later.

The survey says: The NBA’s annual survey of starting rosters offered some interesting perspectives on the Heat.

– Z Udonis Haslem at 42, the NBA’s oldest player, the Heat stand as the league’s second-oldest team, with an average age of 28.13 on opening night, just behind the Milwaukee Bucks’ 29.47. In fact, four of the NBA’s oldest players have spent time with the Heat, counting the 38-year-old Andre Iguodala and 36 years old PJ Tucker and LeBron James.

— In terms of longest tenure, Haslem and James are tied at 20 seasons, with the Heat point guard Kyle Lowry tied for fifth in 17 seasons.

– Z Tyler Herro and Bam AdebayoThe Heat are part of a league-leading 27 Kentucky players on NBA rosters, with Duke second with 21. On the other end of the spectrum, the Heat Haywood Highsmithfrom Wheeling University, is one of only two players directly out of an NCAA Division II school in the league (with Houston Rockets guard Trevor Hudginsnorthwest Missouri, other).

— Numbers 3, 5, and 8 are considered the most popular in the NBA, each worn by 22 players. The Heat retired No. 3 in honor Dwayne Wadewith Nikola Jovich wearing No. 5 and Jamal Cain #8 this season.

– It’s warm Caleb Martin and the Charlotte Hornets Twins Cody Martin are one of 13 sets of brothers in the league.

TIME TRAVEL: While there is no betting line on how far on the court Erik Spoelstra would wander to get the referee’s attention to get a timeout, it became problematic for him again during the two-game series against Toronto when Spoelstra couldn’t prevent a late-game jumper situation from Tyler Herro. And it’s not like Spoelstra hasn’t tried. “Tyler really saw me, Tyler the official,” Spoelstra said when he and Kyle Lowry tried to get a timeout from the referee Tyler Ford. “But we called timeout. It’s hard.” In an October 2019 game at Milwaukee, Spoelstra charged across the court in an attempt to call a timeout after being ignored, nearly reaching the opposite sideline before being spotted. “That’s why I made a point of getting yelled at for running out on the court,” Spoelstra said. “How else can you get someone’s attention at this point? I know I can do it when I get to that forest. And everybody’s like, “Oh, good.” ” The solution? The buzzer that the coach presses makes a distinct sound, not to automatically stop the game, but to alert the referees that an immediate timeout is called for.

Role player: Among the bright spots amid Portland’s surprisingly solid start has been the play of the former Heat forward Justice Winslow, who has gone from the Heat to the Memphis Grizzlies to the Los Angeles Clippers to the Trail Blazers since the Heat moved at the 2020 NBA trade deadline. “I think he’s fit in,” Spoelstra said of Winslow’s backup role in Portland. “I think the most important thing for Justice is his health. He has struggled with injuries the last couple of years, so it has been difficult for him to find a role where he can really make an impact. But he does so many intangibles defensively.” Like the Heat, the Blazers use Winslow all over the positional spectrum. “I think they really found his strengths on both ends of the floor,” Spoelstra said.


23. The age difference between the Heat rookie Nikola Jovich (19) and the Heat captain Udonis Haslem (42) when both appeared in the same game in Wednesday night’s win at Portland. The only other time an NBA team had players in the same game at least 23 years apart in age was the 2004-05 Atlanta Hawks, in games where they Kevin Willis (42) and Josh Smith (19).