Blazers game is homecoming for Heat's Spoelstra
Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has a unique perspective on the Portland Trail Blazers.
Spoelstra grew up in the Portland area, the son of former Blazers executive Jon Spoelstra. Erik, who also played at the University of Portland, keeps a tab on the progress of all the teams in the NBA, but Portland in particular.
Entering Tuesday night's matchup with the Heat in Portland, the Blazers have won three games in a row and six of their last seven. Portland is riding an eight-game home win streak and stands in fourth place in the Western Conference.
"I really respect what they've done this year," said Spoelstra, whose club is kicking off a six-game road trip. "Coach (Terry) Stotts has done a tremendous job with that group. The resilience they've shown to come back this year with the same group after a disappointing playoff (result) last year. ... It's not easy.
"We've been through seasons like that. Most teams give up on that and start over, and it usually takes years to recover from that. What they did was not feel sorry for themselves and showed some responsibility. It's been pretty impressive what they've done in a highly competitive Western Conference."
Portland is expected to have an addition to its roster for Tuesday's game. On Sunday, the Blazers acquired 6-8 swingman Rodney Hood from the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for guards Nik Stauskas and Wade Baldwin and a pair of second-round draft picks.
Portland point guard Damian Lillard knows Hood through Lillard's friendship with Utah Jazz assistant coach Johnnie Bryant, who worked closely with Hood during his years with the Jazz. Lillard and Bryant are both Oakland natives, and Bryant has helped Lillard with his game, too.
"We'd talk and Johnnie would tell me about Rodney's progress as a player," Lillard said. "I respect (Hood). When he was with Utah, he always came in and gave them a spark. He's a good-sized wing who can score, shoot the ball, solid defender -- it will be interesting to see how he will fit in with us."
Miami, clinging to the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race, comes to Portland with a three-game losing streak.
The Heat have constantly battled injuries. The starting guards from a year ago have been missing most of the season. Goran Dragic has played only 14 games -- two since Nov. 16 -- and had his knee scoped on Dec. 19. He is expected back after the All-Star break. Dion Waiters has played only 13 games after ankle surgery more than a year ago and is coming off the bench.
Reserve forward Derrick Jones injured a knee a week ago and will be out at least six weeks. Guards Dwyane Wade (knee) and Tyler Johnson (calf) and James Johnson (hernia) have also missed significant time, though all three are expected to play Tuesday night.
"Every team deals with injuries on some level at some point," Spoelstra said. "We have had an opportunity to be further along than we are at this point. That's been somewhat disappointing. We're not as far along as I feel we should be, but our record is what it is."
--Field Level Media
Updated February 4, 2019