The Miami Heat have been at their busiest of the offseason this past week as they finalize the final training camp roster and make refined changes to the coaching staff.
Yesterday, it was reported that former Heat player Juwan Howard would be replacing Keith Askins as an assistant coach. Howard, who turns 41 in February, has been a fixture of the Heat bench over the past three years as the resident veteran leader, even to the point where he sat with the coaches on nights where he was inactive.
He’ll be working as a player development coach.
Howard played in only seven games last season, but put up the best numbers of his Heat tenure with averages of three points on 53 percent shooting. He also started two games for the first time in a Heat uniform, which includes a 12-point effort in a win over Orlando.
Juwan’s retirement from the NBA concludes a 19-year career for the former number five pick out of the University of Michigan. Besides winning two championships with the Heat, Howard was also a member of the 1996 All-Star team, the 1995 All-Rookie Second Team and the 1996 All-NBA Third Team.
He was a member of the Washington Bullets, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Orlando Magic, Houston Rockets, Charlotte Bobcats and Portland Trail Blazers before spending his final three years with Miami.
Also of note in the Heat front office was the promotion of salary-cap expert Andy Elisburg to general manager. He replaces Team President Pat Riley, who had been the de facto GM.
This morning it was reported the Heat would sign coach Erik Spoelstra to a contract extension. The details have yet to be released, but the contract is deserved for the two-time NBA champion and three-time Eastern Conference Champion.
Spoelstra, who famously started out as a video coordinator with the Heat in 1995, has been the head coach of Miami since 2008. He was left with a tall order to fulfill as he inherited a 15-67 team that was led by a surgically-repaired Dwyane Wade.
Fortunately for Spoelstra, Wade played the best basketball of his career that season and led the team to a 43-win season and a fifth seed. Miami would increase their total by four the next season, but the campaign would end with a second consecutive defeat in the first-round.
The pressure on Spoelstra erupted the following season as the Heat brought in superstars in LeBron James and Chris Bosh to play alongside Wade. The season would begin with the calling for Spo’s head following a 9-8 start, but the ship was righted after a month and Miami would end up making the NBA Finals.
Although he has no Coach of the Year awards or the recognition he truly deserves, what Spoelstra has done amid the immense pressure of a third-year coach taking on three All-Stars and turning them into one of the most feared trios in NBA history has been nothing short of groundbreaking and admirable.
Spoelstra has a resume that includes introducing a small lineup that features LeBron James as a power forward, successfully acclimating Ray Allen to the bench for the first time in his career, and continuing to discover innovative scenarios that successfully involve each member of the ‘Big Three’.
His managing of egos has been immaculate, as well. At only 42 years old, Spoelstra has been only a few years older than a few of his players, yet he’s been able to keep the likes of Rashard Lewis, Mike Miller and James Jones happy, despite the veterans wanting to play.
He, and the rest of the franchise, have bought into the idea of sacrificing for the greater good of winning a title. The team’s focus is unmatched by any other franchise.
While the Heat put the finishing touches on any changes in the front office, they also made a few last additions, bringing on a sharpshooter in Roger Mason, Jr.
Mason, who recently turned 33, spent last year with the New Orleans Hornets. He played 69 games, 13 of which he started, averaging 5.3 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.1 assists, while shooting 43 percent from the field and 42 percent from beyond the arc.
He is shooting 38 percent from three for his career. His breakout season came in 2009 when he started 71 games for the San Antonio Spurs and shot 42 percent from three, while averaging a career-high 11.8 points. His numbers have decreased significantly since, however.
Mason joins Michael Beasley, Jarvis Varnado, Justin Hamilton, Eric Griffin, Larry Drew II as players on a non-guaranteed deal with the Heat. There are two spots remaining on the final roster.