Heat’s Omer Yurtseven has a big fan in Udonis Haslem, but may still have to win over Erik Spoelstra – The Mercury News

The Erik Spoelstra seal of approval never came during the playoffs, with Omer Yurtsven limited to 38 minutes during the Miami Heat’s six-week playoff run, all in mop-up duty.

But in the wake of the Heat being eliminated in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals by the Boston Celtics — one of nine playoff games that Yurtseven did not play — the 7-foot rookie received the next-best thing.

Udonis Haslem believes Yurtseven can play, sees a future for the skilled big man whose play helped keep the Heat afloat at midseason as Bam Adebayo sat out due to thumb surgery.

Beyond offering his seal of approval, Haslem also believes Yurtseven is capable of feats of great strength.

“I love O, man,” Haslem said as the Heat closed the books on 2021-22. “O took some steps. O is strong as hell. O might be the strongest player we got.”

By season’s end, the Heat were down to utilizing one center, with even veteran Dewayne Dedmon held out for the series’ final three games.

Now the question is whether Spoelstra plans to stay small, solely with Adebayo going forward, or whether there could be consideration for something considerably bigger.

“For me,” Haslem said of Yurtseven, “it’s just getting an opportunity to play. O just has to get the opportunity to play and go out there and contribute.

“We had a lot of guys that didn’t get a chance to go out there and play. But the one thing we did have was the guys when they got their opportunity, their number was called, they stepped up and they contributed and I think that’s what O did time and time again. He proved that he’s reliable, he’s capable and if he gets consistent minutes that he can be a consistent basketball player for us.”

With Dedmon, 32, an impending free agent, and with Yurtseven, 23, under team option for a minimal salary next season, an opening could emerge.

Haslem said the potential is there.

“I think he’s only going to get better,” he said. “I do n’t think we ‘ve even seen the scratching of the surface of his skill level. We used him as a roll-to-the-basket big, but he can also step away, stretch the floor and shoot the three a little bit and do things like that.”

Short again

Spoelstra said after decompression will come reflection about where it went south against the Celtics after taking a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.

“I think some of the most fruitful and most important improvements that I’ve experienced as a head coach, fortunately and unfortunately, have come off of really disappointing ends to a season,” he said. “And we’ll get together as a staff and really try to learn from this and see where we can improve again.”

Last year, the Heat were smothered defensively by the Bucks’ size, in being swept 4-0 in the first round. Spoelstra said the challenge from the Celtics was different.

“I wouldn’t view Boston and Milwaukee as similar,” he said. “Where you view them as similar is they both have championship-quality defenses.

“They do it in different ways. The size factor I felt less of that against Boston. It was more their versatility, switchability, guys that could guard multiple different positions, even though they weren’t always in that switch scheme. Milwaukee is much more protective of the rim. So it’s just different things.”

Quick studies

While the Heat thrived 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 make shots under duress, with shorter windows,” he said.

But he also said the Heat knew it had to be about more than 3-point shooting.

“Defenses are just too good,” he said. “You can’t just rely on one thing.”


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