The thought entering camp was similar roster, same goals, hit the ground running. Then the Miami Heat stumbled at the start.
Now approaching the one-month mark of the season, forward Caleb Martin said it became clear that the process needed time.
“It was a rough little start,” Martin said Monday, ahead of the Heat’s game against the visiting Phoenix Suns. “But I think that’s part of the learning curve with new guys, new rotations, new starters.”
Even with 13 players returning from last season’s roster, it has felt like somewhat of a remix because of changes that include Martin taking over as the starting power forward for P.J. Tucker, who left for the Philadelphia 76ers in free agency.
“With different rotations, pretty much playing with the same group, sometimes it’s just different rotations, different groups of guys at certain times,” Martin said. “And I just think that we’re starting to figure that out more.
“I feel like I’m starting to figure out my role a little more. And then we’ve got our stars being stars, and that’s what we do.”
Another of the moving pieces has been guard Duncan Robinson, who has found himself in a more limited role.
“Just continuing to get more and more comfortable with each other, more and more connected, has an impact on both ends,” Robinson said. “So just starting to trust it, believe more and that results in winning.”
The Heat’s zone defense again was a talking point at the morning shootaround.
“Zone’s been big for us,” Martin said. “I just think it throws our opponents off. We kind of cancel out a lot of sets they have when they come prepared for man.
“And then we switch things up a lot. We go zone, we’ll go man switch-switch with Bam [Adebayo], and might press a little but. So just a little bit of throwing everything at teams can be a little confusing.”
Robinson offered baseball analogies.
“Just a curveball to just kind of change some things up, give people a different look,” he said. “Not a lot of people play it, so not a lot of people are used to playing against it.
“It’s an advantage. It’s something we’ve been working on for a little while now, so we definitely have connectivity in it, flying around, being disruptive. It’s definitely been a good off-speed pitch for us, in that sense.”
While the Heat have recalled both forward Jamal Cain and center Orlando Robinson from their G League affiliate in recent days, another Heat camp prospect has been lighting it up for the Sioux Falls Skyforce.
Guard Jamaree Bouya, who was among the final camp cuts, is averaging 19.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 3.3 steals in his four games with the Skyforce. That included a Friday night performance when he closed with 27 points, nine rebounds, nine assists and eight steals in a victory over Fort Wayne.
“Bouya is playing like crazy now,” said Cain, who was with the Skyforce for that game. “I was liked shocked to see he almost had a quadruple double. I haven’t seen that from a point guard. Buoya’s definitely been playing his game. He’s comfortable. I love it for him.”
Bouya is free to be signed by any NBA team.
Of his week with the Skyforce, Cain said it was an adjustment, even after playing collegiately in Wisconsin and Michigan.
“It was good, but a little cold, yeah,” said Cain, who played at Marquette and Oakland University. “The weather? It was hard for me even to walk outside. After living here in Miami, your whole mindset kinds of changes.
“And then finding out the G League team is in South Dakota, it’s like, ‘OK, got to adjust to the cold again.’ “