MIAMI — Tyler Herro spent the summer getting up before 5 a.m., going to a nearby high school gym to work out and wondering where he would play this season.
He’s still in Miami.
After a summer in which the Heat hoped to land Damian Lillard — Portland opted to trade the seven-time All-Star to Milwaukee instead — the reigning Eastern Conference champions reported to training camp on Monday with a familiar refrain in mind. They think they can fight for a title, and now the real work begins.
“You just want to come into camp with a team that you know is going to be one of those teams that are going to compete for a title, and we have one of those teams now,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I love our group. There is a lot to like about this group. And I understand the fandom and the buzz and everything – everyone wants change after every year. You don’t know if those changes will lead to anything with those other teams. But we love our group.”
The Heat have been to the Eastern Conference Finals in three of the last four years, went to the NBA Finals in 2020 (losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in the bubble) and last season (losing to Denver), and are bringing a a large part of the core of the team that achieved the best results during the play-offs last spring.
And they’re getting a lot of criticism for not landing Lillard, even though it was Portland’s decision to send him to Milwaukee. However, not everyone in the NBA is ready to write off the Heat, even after the team lost playoff starters Gabe Vincent and Max Strus in free agency.
“Don’t forget Miami,” New York coach Tom Thibodeau said Monday.
The Heat are also not ignoring Herro, even though the events of this summer may have made him think otherwise.
A former Sixth Man of the Year who has had plenty of clutch moments in his first four Heat seasons, Herro is now on the verge of cashing in on a deal that will pay him $120 million over the next four seasons. But he’s also been prominently featured in trade rumors twice – first when Miami was reportedly interested in acquiring Kevin Durant (who went to Phoenix) and now when Lillard announced his interest in joining the Heat.
It was reasonable to think that, if Miami and Portland were to make a deal, Herro would be one of several assets the Heat would have to send elsewhere.
“This felt a little more real than all the other trade rumors from the past,” Herro said. “But it’s part of the business and at this point in my career I really just want to play wherever I want, whether that’s here or somewhere else, I don’t care. … I don’t think I’m not wanted here. There was a great player in the market at the time and whatever happened, happened.”
He isn’t bitter about it and even tries to mock the situation on social media in recent days, responding to a post saying he’s staying in Miami by adding “see you next summer.”
Herro missed Miami’s playoff run last season and broke his right hand in Game 1 of Round 1 against the Bucks. He didn’t play again, and the Heat still went to the title round.
“No matter what anyone else thinks, he certainly could have helped and made a difference,” Spoelstra said.
Herro has averaged 20 points in each of the past two seasons, averaged a career-high 17.7 points per game, has seen his assist numbers rise each year and hit 93% of his foul shots a year ago. There’s a lot to like about his playing.
Heat forward Jimmy Butler, who broke the Media Day internet with his new look on Monday, said he liked how Herro handled the summer of noise.
“He handled it accordingly,” Butler said. “What more can you say? What else can you do? He put his head down and trained like he always does, knowing that he can only control what he can control. So he’s here. He’s going to make the most of that and he can come in, do his job, be a pro, go out there, score some baskets, win some games and know he’s on our team. I am good at it.”