Two weeks ago, Erik Spoelstra and his players put a season to bed amid the team’s exit interviews.
Last week, Miami Heat President Pat Riley attempted to sum it all up.
And next week, the future again will become the focus.
The NBA circle of life affords little time for exhale, particularly when the playoff run is deep into the conference finals.
“It’s different than the NFL, where you have several months after the season ends to do it,” Adam Simon, the Heat’s vice president of basketball operations, told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “This is how we have to jump right into it.”
So within hours of that May 29 Game 7 loss that instead sent the Boston Celtics to the NBA Finals, youth was being served.
“It was a tough Monday,” Simon said of the day after the Heat were eliminated, which also was Memorial Day. “All last week I was very grumpy. I was trying to get over how our season ended. And yet, on Memorial Day, I was going down the list of players and their agents, calling to set up these workouts.
“Because I didn’t know where we would be, if we were going to be in Miami or San Fran or wherever. So we started making those calls to get these players.”
With the Heat holding the No. 27 pick in the June 23 draft, there was little time for reflection. So Simon got busy with his scouting staff, including Eric Amsler, the team’s director of player personnel, and Keith Askins, the former Heat defensive standout who is the team’s director of college and pro scouting.
“So I had to be on the horn, with Eric and Keith. We all jumped right into it,” Simon said. “And that’s how this is. When you lose early, then you have more time. And I think the later you go, now you have to work with your team and around your team schedule to try to prepare for the draft.”
Almost immediately, it was about inspection rather than reflection.
As Riley spoke last week, the juxtaposition of wrapping up one season and preparing to unveil something new was tangible.
“I just saw some young guys. I saw six of them upstairs,” he said of the team’s practice court at FTX Arena alongside Biscayne Bay. He paused, smiled, and added, “really young.”
With the Heat coaching staff and developmental team now working in that direction, the preference would have been to be in San Francisco, plotting against the Warriors in the NBA Finals.
“They’re working them out with enthusiasm like nothing happened,” Riley said. “And I know they’re still feeling it.”
The draft, of course, is a delicate dance for Riley, particularly at a stage when the core of the roster —including Jimmy Butler, at 32, and Kyle Lowy, at 36 — is in win-now mode.
And that also is part of the annual equation. There is no guarantee the pick won’t be traded. Or for that matter, that the player selected will be retained.
“Well, where we’re drafting is late at 27,” Riley said, with the Heat having tied the Warriors for the league’s third-best regular-season record. “So there’s a lot of good players that have been drafted down there. But it’s sort of a crapshoot, when you’re looking for talent.
“As far as our draft choices, they’re valuable to us. We finally got ‘em back in order a little bit. So we’re gonna use ‘em.”
The reality, though, is a Riley draft conversation rarely ends there.
“Unless,” he continued, “something that presents itself that causes you to say, ‘Hey, I think I’ll do this,’ that you would transcend drafting somebody, then I would always consider that. But that’s all part of the discussion between now and the draft.”
Unlike many teams, the Heat no longer announce those they are working out or allow media interviews with such prospects.
But Simon has made clear there will be value when the Heat’s number is called a week from Thursday, a pool that could include G League guard MarJon Beauchamp, Baylor forward Kendall Brown, Tennessee guard Kennedy Chandler, G League guard Jaden Hardy, Serbian big man Nikola Jovic, Duke guard Tevor Keels, Auburn forward Walker Kessler, Ohio State forward E.J. Liddell, Arizona guard Dalen Terry, Notre Dame guard Blake Wesley and Santa Clara forward Jalen Williams.
“I think where we’re picking there’s going to be a good group of players to select from,” Simons said, without naming names. “I think there’s players that are a little bit more ready to contribute, and some that are going to take a little longer. But I think overall it’s a good draft.”