Miami coach Erik Spoelstra’s chair remained vacant at Heat media day on Monday, for the best possible reason.
His family roster is growing.
Spoelstra and his wife Nikki welcomed their third child into the world Monday — Ruby Grace, the couple’s first daughter after two sons.
That’s one of the few lineup changes for the Heat in the last few months, with the team having its eight top scorers in terms of total points and all but one of its regular rotation players from a year ago back this season.
The exception: PJ Tucker, who signed a three-year deal with Philadelphia.
“PJ’s a traitor. I tell him every single day, but I love that guy,” Heat forward Jimmy Butler said. “We’re back at Square One, you know. New season, new year. I’m excited. I know the guys are excited. We look around this locker room as we keep in touch over the summer, and we’ll find a way to get done what we want to get done.”
Finding Tucker’s replacement at starting power forward is the primary task for the Heat before opening night. Phoenix’s Jae Crowder — whom Tucker replaced as Miami’s starter at that spot — will not be with the Suns for training camp and wants a trade, so it makes sense to think that the Heat would see if making a move there is possible. Miami also re-signed forward Caleb Martin, who enters camp as perhaps the frontrunner for that job.
Otherwise, camp and preseason will allow the Heat the chance to largely pick up where they left off last season. They claimed the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference and made it to Game 7 of the conference finals, falling to Boston at home.
“We always find a way,” Heat center Bam Adebayo said. “That’s the Miami Heat way. … No excuses. PJ’s not with us anymore and we’ve got to learn how to adapt to that.”
The first road trip of the season awaits before the first practice. Miami was flying to Nassau, Bahamas, on Monday afternoon to start training camp there Tuesday. Spoelstra is expected to join the team there sometime before Wednesday, though he was expected to miss the first practice session. Miami is planning to practice on the island through Saturday, with the final session being open to invited guests and kids from the Bahamas Youth Basketball Federation.
HAIR TODAY, GONE SOON
Butler has been experimenting with different hairstyles all summer, keeping the world apprised on Instagram while he toured parts of the world while on vacation and doing research for his Big Face Coffee brand. He arrived Monday with long braids, which are temporary.
“I’m just messing with stuff to make the Internet mad,” Butler said. “That was my goal this summer. And it worked. Thank you.” He isn’t sure what hairstyle he’ll have when the season starts.
Spoelstra has always been a proponent of back-to-back games during the preseason, in part to simulate the routine for when it’ll happen during the regular season. Miami technically has two back-to-backs — in a five-day span — in this preseason; the team’s open scrimmage game is Oct. 3 followed by the preseason opener against Minnesota on Oct. 4, and then comes a trip to Brooklyn on Oct. 6 and Memphis on Oct. 7.
The Heat preseason roster has a teenager (Nikola Jovic, 19), 14 players in their 20s, four players in their 30s and one player in his 40s — 42-year-old Udonis Haslem, back for his 20th and presumably final season.
Butler explained why the Heat still value having Haslem in uniform: “The No. 1 thing that he brings is legit, like real, real leadership and what it means to really be Miami in every single way. You’re talking from the Miami Dolphins, to the Marlins, to the Heat. He went to Florida but I’m pretty sure he likes the Hurricanes too. He just loves Miami through and through.”
The Heat and guard Tyler Herro haven’t agreed yet on an extension; he remains eligible for one, but said he’s not thinking about it entering camp. The NBA’s reigning sixth man of the year also is hoping to be a starter this season, though insisted he’ll do what Spoelstra wants. “Whatever they want me to do, I’ll do,” Herro said.
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