Getty Erik Spoelstra (left) and Nikola Jovic of the Miami Heat
Here in the early NBA season, the Heat dealt with injuries to key rotation players in almost every game. But despite all of this, one thing remains almost certain: Nikola Jovic is finally out of the rotation in Miami.
He started one game, back in October in Minnesota. He performed again. Jovic has missed two games due to illness but has been back in the last two, albeit with a number of absences – long-term injuries to Tyler Herro and Caleb Martin, short-term injuries/rest to Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry – Jovic has not been able to play. to sniff the ground.
That’s both surprising and disappointing for a young player who seemed to show some growth in the offseason. But for coach Erik Spoelstra it wasn’t quite enough.
“Right now I’m not in the rotation, which I don’t mind,” Jovic said, according to the Miami Herald. “It’s the coach’s decision and I respect it. It’s up to me to keep working and show him what I can do.”
Nikola Jovic’s defense remains a problem
Erik Spoelstra apparently wants Nikola Jovic to show progress in one place in particular: defensively. The Heat, of course, had a difficult defensive system for a young player to learn, especially a young big who needs to be versatile and show he can defend different types of power forwards.
That’s a problem with the Heat’s current bigs. Of course, Bam Adebayo can guard anyone, anywhere. But Kevin Love and Thomas Bryant are relatively slow-footed in today’s NBA and therefore have limited ability to guard the outside and inside areas.
Jovic has the potential for both. He has the length to hit a 3-point shooter and the mobility to rebound and defend the paint. He is 1.90 meters tall and still only 20 years old. That means he’s more spry than most NBA big men. This means he’s also a little more clueless than most.
“Spo wants me to do other things,” Jovic said, according to the Herald. “Showing, dropping, basically everything. So I’m still in between. I’m not in the normal rotation so I’m not even used to knowing exactly what things are. But I will try to do my best for the team and that’s all.”
Miami Heat rotation always in flux
The disappointing thing is that after the summer, it seemed like we were finally going to see what kind of player Nikola Jovic can be in the NBA. He played very well for an undermanned Serbian team in the summer World Cup, averaging 10.1 points and 3.0 rebounds on 42.3% of his 3-point shots. He drew attention with a 25-point game in the group round against South Sudan.
But Jovic’s role also shrank at the World Cup as the competition became increasingly tough. Serbia reached the final and lost to Germany. Jovic scored a total of 30 points in the five knockout games. Maybe the Serbs knew then what the Heat know now – Jovic has talent but isn’t quite ready yet.
Spoelstra certainly didn’t give up on him. Jovic knows that.
“A lot is going to change,” Jovic said of the Heat’s rotation. “There will be certain times when I can probably play. But the fact is that I’m not in the normal rotation. It’s just up to me to keep working. These guys do a great job of developing players and I think I’ve developed a lot since last year and I think I’ll be even better this year.
“My chances will come and I hope I will play well when the time comes.”
Sean Deveney is a veteran sports reporter who covers the NBA and NFL for Heavy.com. He has been writing for Heavy since 2019 and has more than two decades of NBA reporting experience, including 17 years as a senior NBA reporter for the Sporting News. Deveney is the author of seven nonfiction books, including “Fun City,” “Before Wrigley Were Wrigley,” and “Facing Michael Jordan.” More about Sean Deveney