Heat drops to 0-2 in summer league, as rookie Nikola Jovic’s learning process continues

·7 min read
John Minchillo/AP

The Miami Heat is still learning about first-round pick Nikola Jovic’s skill set and Jovic is still learning how to play in the Heat’s system.

That’s not a surprise, considering the Heat drafted the Serbian forward with the 27th overall pick less than two weeks ago on June 23.

After starting in his summer league debut on Saturday, Jovic played off the bench in his second summer league game as the Heat fell to the Sacramento Kings 81-64 on Sunday at Chase Center in the California Classic. The Heat is 0-2 to start summer league.

Coming off of a shaky summer debut that included just three points on 1-of-6 shooting from the field, three rebounds and two turnovers in 21 minutes as a starter on Saturday, Jovic’s learning process continued a day later.

Jovic, who turned 19 on June 9, finished Sunday’s loss with six points on 3-of-8 shooting from the field and 0-of-4 shooting on threes, four rebounds and one assist in limited minutes (16) in a reserve role with the Heat playing its second game in as many days.

“This is something new for me,” Jovic said on Saturday. “Of course, the pace is different and I could feel it right now. The game, guys are a lot faster and a lot more athletic than in Europe. But I don’t find it to be a problem.”

Jovic was a first-round pick because of his intriguing offensive skills while standing at 6-11 and 223 pounds. He’s known as a three-level scorer who can also serve as a ball-handler and facilitator.

Jovic flashed that offensive talent on Sunday, hitting a step-back midrange jumper for his first points of the game and then taking advantage of a smaller defender to drop-step his way to an easy layup during a seven-minute stint off the bench for his only playing time in the first half.

Jovic threw a nice hit-ahead pass to forward Aaron Wheeler for an and-one layup in the third quarter for his only assist of the day. He closed the third period by converting on a hook shot that came after catching a timely pass on a hard cut into the paint for his final points of the game.

“I think just in general, he just got a little bit more comfortable,” Heat assistant coach and summer league head coach Malik Allen said following Sunday’s loss. “You saw a little bit more skill and I think he’s going to continue to be able to do that. Rebound, be able to push the ball, start the break for us because he’s a good decision maker, he’s a very willing passer. So we’re trying to encourage him to do more of that.”

For now, the Heat and Jovic continue to learn more about each other.

“I think right now they’re still looking to see where I’m the best at,” Jovic said on Friday. “They’re still trying to find the perfect fit for me. So it’s going to take a little bit of time. But I think as soon as the games start, I’ll show what I can do and they’ll know exactly where to put me. Right now, we’re just experimenting a little bit.”

Center Orlando Robinson, who went undrafted this year out of Fresno State, also had some bright moments for the Heat’s summer team on Sunday with 10 points on 3-of-5 shooting from the field, five rebounds and four steals.

Forward Haywood Highsmith continued to show his NBA-level skills with nine points on 4-of-7 shooting from the field, nine rebounds, two steals and one block. Highsmith is one of three players on the summer league team who are under contract to be on the Heat’s 15-man roster this upcoming season, along with Jovic and center Omer Yurtseven.

Heat guards Javonte Smart and Kyle Allman Jr. also impressed.

Smart, who holds one of the Heat’s two-way contracts, ended the loss with a team-high 12 points to go with three rebounds and four assists.

Allman, who went undrafted out of Cal State Fullerton in 2019 and spent last season playing overseas in France, finished with 11 points, two rebounds and three assists.

The Heat entered Sunday’s fourth quarter with a three-point lead but was outscored 28-8 in the final period as the Kings cruised to the win.

The Heat played Sunday’s summer league game without three players.

Forward Jamal Cain, who stood out in Saturday’s loss to the Lakers, was not available because of health and safety protocols.

Yurtseven and guard Marcus Garrett remained away from the team and won’t take part in the California Classic. Yurtseven and Garrett are expected to play in Las Vegas Summer League.

Yurtseven did play somewhere else Sunday, though, finishing with nine points on 4-of-8 shooting from the field, three rebounds and one assist to help lead Turkey past Great Britain 85-71 in a World Cup qualifier game played in England.

The Heat’s summer team is idle Monday before closing its three-game stint at the California Classic on Tuesday against the Golden State Warriors (3 p.m., NBA TV). The Heat then heads to Las Vegas to play five games.

THIS AND THAT FROM DAY 4 OF FREE AGENCY

The Heat hasn’t made any moves in free agency since receiving commitments from center Dewayne Dedmon and guard Victor Oladipo to return next season while also losing forward P.J. Tucker to the Philadelphia 76ers on the first day of negotiations Thursday.

Friday and Saturday went by with no Heat additions, and Sunday marked the third straight quiet day as Miami’s front office focuses its attention on the Kevin Durant sweepstakes.

The Heat’s roster for next season currently stands at 12 players on standard contracts: Bam Adebayo, Jimmy Butler, Dedmon, Tyler Herro, Highsmith, Jovic, Kyle Lowry, Oladipo, Duncan Robinson, Max Strus, Gabe Vincent and Yurtseven.

Mychal Mulder and Smart currently hold the Heat’s two-way contracts.

NBA teams are allowed to carry up to 20 players under contract in the offseason and preseason, a total that does not include those on summer league contracts. Rosters must be cut to a maximum total of 17 players (15 on standard contracts and two on two-way contracts) by the start of the regular season.

Three players from the Heat’s season-ending roster remain available in free agency: Udonis Haslem and Markieff Morris are unrestricted free agents, and Caleb Martin is a restricted free agent.

Dedmon and Oladipo won’t be eligible to be included in a trade until Jan. 15 after they sign their new contracts with the Heat, which could happen once the free agency moratorium ends on Wednesday at noon.

Most free agent signings become eligible to be traded on Dec. 15. But because the Heat used Bird or Early Bird rights while over the salary cap to give Dedmon and Oladipo a raise of more than 20 percent from last season’s salary, the aren’t able to be included in a trade until Jan. 15.

Former Heat point guard Goran Dragic agreed to a one-year deal at the veteran minimum salary of $2.9 million to join the Chicago Bulls in free agency, according to multiple reports.

Dragic, 36, spent seven seasons with the Heat and is considered one of the best point guards in franchise history. He was traded by the Heat last offseason as part of the Lowry deal, splitting last season between the Toronto Raptors and Brooklyn Nets.

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