The list of Heat players who prefer to start keeps growing.
But in Victor Oladipo’s case, it might not make a difference.
Oladipo will accept any role he’s given — starting or more likely, coming off the bench. But he made clear he hopes for an expanded role.
“I do hope it’s a bigger role, more responsibility, more opportunity,” he said.
Last season, after returning in March after a second knee procedure, Oladipo was available for 35 games (including postseason) and appeared in 23. But he appeared in the Heat’s final 15 playoff games.
He averaged 23 minutes per game in the Eastern Conference finals, appearing in all seven games of that series against Boston. By contrast, he averaged 33 minutes per game in three seasons for Orlando, four for Indiana and one for Oklahoma City and Houston.
Oladipo has started 395 of 462 regular-season games but only five of 12 for the Heat.
Asked if coming off the bench will be easier for him after doing it when he returned last March, he said: “It’s not going to be easy. Nothing is easy. It would be something I would have to get used to as well.”
Does he hope to start? “Everyone does. We’ll see how it works out.”
One of Oladipo’s offseason goals was getting his offense back to the level of his defense after two major knee procedures.
Did he achieve that during 1-on-1 and 5-on-5 games in Miami and Los Angeles during the summer?
“I don’t know; we’ll see,” he said. “I feel better. That’s the most important thing. You feel good, you play good.”
Oladipo was a defensive menace at times in the playoffs, and had offensive outbursts of 21, 40, 23 and 23 points in his 23 combined regular-season and playoff games for the Heat last season.
But his efficiency needs to be better.
In six playoff games against Philadelphia, he shot 20 of 48 from the field (41.7 percent) and 6 for 22 on threes (27.3).
In seven playoff games against Boston, he shot 19 of 62 (30.6) and 8 for 29 on threes (27.6).
He shot 47.7 percent overall and 37.1 percent on threes during his 2017-18 All-Star year for Indiana, when he averaged a career high 23.1 points.
But that was something of an outlier as far as field-goal percentage goes. For his full career, he has shot 43.8 overall and 34.8 on threes.
Is there another level he sees himself getting to this season? “Definitely.”
What has he regained that he didn’t have fully back in the Heat’s playoff run?
“Confidence,” he said. “Being comfortable out there. That’s the biggest improvement and got to build on it.”
During the past couple of years, he would sometimes watch tape of himself at his best (he made two All-Star Game appearances) “to remind myself of what I’m capable of and how good I am. The world will make you forget.”
Oladipo never came close to leaving this offseason, noting that coming back to Heat “wasn’t a hard decision.”
Oladipo, who originally agreed to a one-year $11 million contract with Miami, agreed to change it to a two-year, $18 million deal.
Why did he agree to do that? “To help the team,” he said.
By doing so, the Heat avoided climbing over the luxury-tax threshold, a decision that could be worth more than $15 million to the franchise.
He will earn $8.8 million this season, with a $9.5 million player option for next season.
Oladipo can veto any trade this season and cannot be traded under any circumstances until Jan. 15.
THIS AND THAT
“People have doubted me my whole life,” the Heat’s latest developmental project said. “I know they [the Heat] have faith in me.”
Highsmith has a chance to crack the rotation at power forward. He defended Adebayo a lot in pickup games this summer to improve on guarding power rotation players.
Udonis Haslem is intrigued with Highsmith’s skill set:
“I see him being a somewhat similar version of P.J., not the basketball IQ obviously. Has a long way to go to get to that point. You talk about a guy who can guard multiple positions and shoot the three.
“He’s been out there working out with me and Jimmy, playing [point guard] so I know he can guard multiple positions and shoot the ball.
“He’s a guy we can continue to develop and maybe a year or two from now, we have a 2.0 version of P.J., a three-and-D guy who can guard multiple positions and shoot the three and put the ball on the floor.”
▪ Phoenix forward Jae Crowder’s agent has been given permission to seek a trade for Crowder, and we hear there has been contact with the Heat.
Crowder would love to return to Miami, but a path toward a trade that would appeal to the Suns remains difficult.
Crowder reportedly is asking for a trade because he was told he might lose his starting job. The Athletic’s Shams Charinia listed the Heat, Boston, Memphis and Dallas as possibilities. Cleveland reportedly has interest.