Erik Spoelstra’s acceptance never came during the playoffs, with Omar Yurtsven confined to 38 minutes during the Miami Heat’s six-week playoff run, all in mop-up duty.
But in the wake of the heats being eliminated by the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals—one of nine playoff games that Yurtseven didn’t play—the 7-foot rookie got the next best thing.
Udonis Haslem, who believes Yurtseven can play, sees a future for the skilled big man, whose game helped sustain the heat into midseason as Bum Adebayo was ruled out due to thumb surgery.
In addition to offering his seal of approval, Haslem also believes that Yurtseven is capable of feats of great strength.
“I love O, man,” Haslem said as the summer closed the books on 2021-22. “O take a few moves. Hey strong as hell. O the strongest player we can have.”
By the end of the season, the Heat were down to use a center, with even veteran Dwayne Deadman being ruled out for the final three games of the series.
The question now is whether Spoelstra plans to stay small, with only Adebayo moving in, or whether something bigger could be considered.
“For me,” Haslem said of Yurtseven, “it’s just getting a chance to play. O’s just getting to play and go out there and contribute.”
“We had a lot of people who didn’t get a chance to go there and play. But the one thing we had in common was that when he got a chance, his number was called, he stepped up and he contributed and I think O did the same thing over and over again. He proved that he is dependable, he is capable and if he gets the minutes consistently he can be a consistent basketball player for us.
With Dedmon, 32, an impending free agent, and Yurtseven, 23, under the team option for minimum wage next season, an opening could emerge.
Haslem said there is potential.
“I think he’s only going to get better,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve even seen his skill level scratch the surface. We used him as a roll-to-the-basket Big, but he can also go far, span the floor and hit all three.” Could shoot a little bit and do stuff like that.”
Spoelstra said the decompression would reflect where it went south against the Celtics after taking a 2-1 lead in a best-of-seven series.
“I think some of the most useful and most important improvements I’ve experienced as a head coach, fortunately and unfortunately, have come from a really disappointing end to a season,” he said. “And we’ll get together as an employee and really try to learn from it and see where we can improve again.”
Last year, the Heat were suppressed defensively by the size of the Bucks, going 4-0 in the first round. Spoelstra said the Celtics’ challenge was different.
“I wouldn’t see Boston and Milwaukee the same,” he said. “Where you see them in common, they are both championship-quality defenses.
“They do it in different ways. What I found was less of a size factor than Boston’s. It was their versatility, switchability, people who could defend many different positions, even though they were always in that switch plan.” Were not. Milwaukee is too protective of the rim. So it’s just different things.”
While the Heat concluded with their 3-point shooting during the regular season, Spoelstra said a lesson from the league’s playoff-worst 3-point percentage was a timing element.
“Our shooters will continue to work on their ability to shoot under pressure with smaller windows,” he said.
But he also said that the Heat knew it had to be more than a three-point shoot.
“The defense is pretty good right now,” he said. “You can’t count on just one thing.”