The Miami Heat may have suffered their worst loss of the season last night to the shorthanded and abysmal New York Knicks but most anyone would agree that Erik Spoelstra should be on the short list for the NBA’s Coach of the Year award this season.
Count Golden State Warriors superstar Kevin Durant, who was in play for Miami last summer, among his biggest admirers.
“I think coach Spoelstra is definitely underrated,” Durant said on Bill Simmons’ podcast yesterday (around the 32-33 minute mark). “He’s one of the best coaches in the league. He’s been one of the best coaches for the last six years.”
While discussing LeBron James’ extensive minutes this season and how he’s being used today compared to past years in Miami, Durant continued to praise Spo.
“I think he put a system in place,” Durant said. “Like LeBron played off the ball a lot in Miami. A lot. And he had the ball a lot too but he played off the ball. He was catching backdoor lobs. He was running in the post. They ran a lot of fast breaks. He was catch-and-shooting threes sometimes… Spoelstra put him in a great position and I think that helped him as as far as keeping his body in tact.”
Roughly 25 minutes later, Simmons asked Durant which team he’s been most impressed by this season, and again, Durant pointed to Miami.
“Miami,” he said. “They’re impressive. Really impressive. They were 11-30 and what’s their record now? They’re balling…”
While Cocky Heat Fan may look at these quotes and come to the conclusion that Durant, who has a player-option for next season, could join Miami this summer, I don’t get the feeling that’s what Durant was getting at.
Like many NBA players, he’s an admirer of the Heat’s system — their culture and process (yes, Philly). Smart basketball minds recognize greatness from their peers and KD clearly has an appreciation for the Miami Heat’s brand of basketball.
While it’s not fruitful to wonder too much about the past, I think had Chris Bosh still been a healthy part of the Heat’s core last summer, Durant would have seriously considered taking his talents south.
Even without Bosh, it’s obvious a talent of Durant’s caliber would elevate the Heat from playoff team to Eastern Conference contender. This will be a selling point to all attainable whale free agents (like Gordon Hayward) this summer: We’re a player away and that player is you.