GUTS CHECK: West Coast Miami Heat Waiters Drama, Looking Ahead

Welcome back to Guts Check. A weekly Miami Heat column aimed at bringing readers my perspective on all the hot topics surrounding the team. You can expect a regular balance of sourced information, analysis and an expression of the soul of the Heat fan base. In the name of Trusting the Spocess, let’s call these weekly columns position-less.

Since we last touched base:

  • Lost at Denver, 109-89
  • Won at Phoenix, 124-108
  • Lost at Los Angeles Lakers, 95-80

Let’s review a few of my key takeaways from last week, and what we should be looking towards.

More Defense, Less Drama

What a difference a week makes?

The 3 game West coast trip left Miami 1-2 on the trip, 6-3 on the season. They had an impressive win in Phoenix sandwiched in between two tough losses in Denver and Los Angeles.

However, the more troubling elements surrounding the team over the last 3 games have less to do with the Heat’s play and more to do with off the court & injury report issues.

Let’s quickly recap:

  • Dion Waiters earned a team suspension of 10 games for conduct detrimental to the team.
    • I’m not going to spend too much time rehashing this bizarre scenario, but if it makes you feel any worse this appears to be the punctuation to a handful of similar issues as it pertains to Dion. This is now becoming a trend for Waiters and Miami. The team has been at odds with Waiters for far too long and both parties have been left to throw hands up at each other. This isn’t likely to end in nice fashion.
  • Justise Winslow appears to have apparently finished a game while concussed and has now been forced to miss several games following that head injury.
    • Injury aside, Winslow’s uneven start is not viewed as concerning according to a team source. The thought being, time to further build chemistry with Jimmy Butler, improve his shooting and stay healthy will translate to positive momentum for the starting point guard. If the shooting doesn’t come, the Heat are going to have some interesting decisions to make long term.
  • The injury bug has also hit the Heat by the likes of Tyler Herro and Kelly Olynyk. (Not to mention Derrick Jones Jr. remains sidelined).
    • The Heat can’t afford to lose the spacing that Herro and KO provide. Let’s keep our fingers crossed both Herro and Olynyk, listed as questionable tonight, can suit up.

However, all things considered, I think any rational Heat observer would take 6-3 to start this season.

Looking Ahead

The key for this team that will determine if homecourt in the East playoffs is achievable has a lot less to do with how they perform on three game west coast trips and much more to do with how they handle an upcoming 7 game stretch like what lies ahead.

Tuesday Nov 12 vs. Detroit

Thursday Nov 14 at Cleveland

Saturday Nov 16 vs New Orleans

Wednesday Nov 20 vs Cleveland

Friday, Nov 22 at Chicago

Saturday, Nov 23 at Philadelphia

Monday, Nov 25 vs. Charlotte

6-1 should be the goal, 5-2 you also take. However, you can’t stumble through these portions of the schedule. These are the clusters of winnable games that pad the W/L record (especially the home games) to protect against those nights in Denver or other west coast trips in the future.

While aside from Philadelphia, the Heat’s next 7 opponents may lack marquee game appeal, this will be a telling two weeks of Heat basketball.

Player to Watch

Kendrick Nunn is firmly on my radar this week.

Honestly, I still don’t really even know what we have in this kid. How Nunn bounces back from his recent “struggles” relative to his blazing hot start, is probably what I am most curious to find out this week. Defenses are taking advantage of his aggressive style of defense and forcing him to do more than just score.

Nunn has seemingly played his way into the rotation regardless, but the question will become how entrenched as a starter he is, and how effective can he be late in games as teams tighten the screws on defense.

The other player I am anxious to watch this week is Jimmy Butler. Because duh.

As many of those scoring sprees (like we saw in Phoenix) we can witness from a superstar of Butler’s caliber in a Heat uniform, the better. It feels damn good to have a player who can do that type of heavy lifting night in and night out. Plus, he gets respect from the officials.

Some might say Jimmy Butler has the guts.

That’s a wrap until next week.

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