A positive Heat injury update. Also, Precious Achiuwa on ‘roller coaster’ rookie season

·5 min read

The Miami Heat received good news prior to Friday’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro are both available to play against the Timberwolves.

Butler, who’s leading the Heat in points, assists and steals per game this season, missed Tuesday’s loss to the Dallas Mavericks because of flu-like symptoms. Miami is just 6-12 in games that Butler has missed this season.

Herro, who has been a key part of the Heat’s bench rotation this season, returns after missing the past six games with right foot soreness.

But Heat guard Victor Oladipo (right knee soreness) remains out. Friday marks the 15th consecutive game that Oladipo has missed.

The Timberwolves ruled out Malik Beasley (left hamstring injury), Jarrett Culver (right ankle surgery) and Jaden McDaniels (personal reasons) for Friday’s game in Miami.

ACHIUWA’S ‘ROLLER COASTER’ ROOKIE SEASON

Precious Achiuwa is looking forward to his first full NBA offseason.

The Heat’s rookie center didn’t have one prior to his first NBA season because of the pandemic-altered schedule, and that has been tough to overcome. Achiuwa, 21, has been playing catch-up since he was drafted in November and has fallen out of the Heat’s rotation after beginning his first NBA season as a consistent part of the rotation.

“Year in and year out, you’ve got to go and handle your business and this is what it is,” Achiuwa said in advance of Friday night’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. “Obviously try to get better, offseason, in-season whatever the case many. And I will have more time. You can really focus on one or two things, whatever the case may be. But I look at it like every other job, try to get better, try to maximize what I can do in the offseason, and just looking forward to next season, as well.”

Once Achiuwa was selected by the Heat with the 20th pick in the Nov. 18 draft, the abbreviated NBA offseason amid the COVID-19 pandemic did not include a summer league or allow for weeks of workouts in the team’s player development program. Instead, the Heat opened training camp about two weeks later.

Achiuwa, who spent just one season at the University of Memphis before entering the draft, played in his first NBA game about a month after he was selected by the Heat.

“There have been a lot of ups and downs, obviously,” Achiuwa said of his rookie season. “Also, learning on the fly. That’s one of the biggest things so far. I’ve just been learning on the fly, just trying to piece things together. We didn’t really have an offseason unlike any other draft and it has just been difficult. Not just for myself, but you can look across the league at everybody who was drafted this year. Guys that played, they’ve either been stronger in the beginning or they’re stronger right now.”

Achiuwa began his rookie season as a consistent part of the Heat’s rotation, serving as the backup to starting center Bam Adebayo. Achiuwa logged double-digit minutes in each of the Heat’s first 22 games, but his playing time has fluctuated since.

“He has been learning everything through a fire hose this year,” coach Erik Spoelstra said of Achiuwa in April. “I think it’s important to keep that all in perspective. I think if you look at this league-wide, this is what the rookie class looks like without a training camp and without summer league and then the whole player development programs that they typically get.”

Since the Heat signed veteran center Dewayne Dedmon last month, Achiuwa’s role has continued to shrink. With Dedmon flourishing as Miami’s backup center, Achiuwa logged just a total of 11 minutes of playing time in the eight games leading up to Friday’s matchup against the Timberwolves and did not play in four of those games.

What does Achiuwa plan to focus on in his player development this upcoming offseason?

“I think my overall game,” he said. “My basketball IQ, understanding the game is one of the things I really, really want to focus on in the offseason. Being able to make reads and all that kind of stuff. Just my overall knowledge of the game.”

Achiuwa entered Friday averaging 4.8 points and 3.4 rebounds in 11.9 minutes in 58 games (three starts) this season. He called his rookie year “an up-and-down roller coaster ride.”

“Just being ready, still continuing to work on my game,” Achiuwa said of his approach since falling out of the Heat’s rotation. “You never know what’s going to happen, when your name and your number is going to get called. So for me, it’s just being ready to play, staying in shape, keeping my game sharp as much as possible, and my body and conditioning right.”

UDONIS ON BAM

Heat team captain and veteran forward Udonis Haslem is one of Adebayo’s biggest fans. The two have developed a close off-court relationship, and the 40-year-old Haslem has enjoyed serving as one of Adebayo’s mentors.

“The sky is the limit for Bam,” Haslem said. “I think the thing that Bam does the best is that he listens. He actually listens and he tries to apply the things that we give him. For me at this stage of the game, I hate wasting my time. So when I sit down and I spend time with Bam, whether it’s on film or on the court or in the weight room, I know it’s not falling on deaf ears and I know it’s going to get applied. He’s a real student of the game.”

Can Adebayo, 23, become the face of the franchise?

“He’s not as handsome as me, but you can try to put his face somewhere around here and hopefully it’ll catch on,” Haslem said jokingly. “He can try to be the face.”

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