Erik Spoelstra took his fair share of the blame for the Miami Heat’s early playoff exit. Some felt the head coach didn’t push the right buttons or put the best rotations together after last year’s magical championship run. Maybe his message was getting stale after 13 seasons.
Perish the thought. Spoelstra navigated the Heat through a tumultuous 2021 campaign filled with injury upon injury, COVID-19 scare upon COVID-19 scare. They still made the postseason. They still displayed Heat Culture.
And, according to Ethan J. Skolnick of Five Reasons Sports Network, the job he did was enough to get on another franchise’s radar. The Portland Trail Blazers were having “internal discussions” about reaching out to Spoelstra about their head-coaching vacancy. They need someone with a championship pedigree to keep Damian Lillard happy after firing Terry Stotts.
The now-deleted report made it clear that no contact had been made between Portland and Spoelstra. (Editor’s note: Skolnick claims he was locked out of his Twitter account). Meanwhile, Trail Blazers play-by-play announcer Travis Demers got wind of the report and immediately shot it down. Those rumors are dead and Spoelstra is staying in Miami.
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Pat Riley Hand-Picked Spoelstra
The thought of Spoelstra even considering an exit out of Miami seemed preposterous from the start. Heat president Pat Riley has long considered Spoelstra his golden child and the guy he hand-picked to succeed him in 2008. Spoelstra has guided the organization to five NBA Finals appearances, including two championships. He has 607 career victories for the franchise.
“It is humbling,” Spoelstra said after earning his 600th win on April 29. “Obviously, I always think about Pat [Riley] and Micky [Arison] for having this incredible opportunity to be able to coach with this franchise. I feel a great responsibility to do it the right way for something they started and created.”
Riley has always defended Spoelstra even amid rumors that LeBron James wanted him fired during their first season together in South Beach. Riley said that conversation “never, ever” happened, at least not to his face.
“Not from him to me, ever,” Riley said of the James-Spoelstra feud in 2016. “So a lot of stuff is following him out the door. Whether it’s right or wrong, it’s just the nature of it. But as far as that goes, no, he never, ever walked in and said anything.”
Bam Adebayo’s Usage Questioned?
The only semi-crack in the relationship between Spoelstra and Riley occurred during the president’s end-of-year remarks. He was discussing the way the Heat used star center Bam Adebayo in 2021 and seemed to offer some thoughtful criticism. Then again, who wouldn’t want sage advice from a man who won five titles and built the famed “Showtime Lakers.”
“I think when it comes down to really taking a look at his season, evaluating a lot of film, I think Spo has to evaluate a little bit how he uses Bam,” Riley told reporters, via South Florida-Sun Sentinel. “If Spo really likes to use Bam with a stretch five or a four, you might have to change it, you never know.
“He might have to think about: What’s going to be the next thing in the NBA that you will require, that will require you to get somebody to stay with that kind of play? Look it, the game is fast-paced, guys are jacking threes from halfcourt and guys are taking bad threes that five years ago, guys would probably be on the bench for taking those kinds of shots.”