Former champions praise Miami Heat, dismiss media narrative as ‘disrespectful’

May 29, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; The Miami Heat celebrates on the podium after defeating the Boston Celtics in game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals for the 2023 NBA playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
May 29, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; The Miami Heat celebrates on the podium after defeating the Boston Celtics in game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals for the 2023 NBA playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports /
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Adversity and doubt is something the Miami Heat have been accustomed to during the regular season and now in the NBA Finals. As coach Erik Spoelstra said recently, “We like to do it the hard way.”

They beat the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in five, the New York Knicks in six and eliminated the Boston Celtics in Game 7 to become just the second eighth seed to ever advance to the NBA Finals. According to former NBA champions Spoelstra, Steve Kerr and Draymond Green, what has powered this unlikely run is the Heat’s sacrifice, accountability and ability to block out the noise.

Now trailing in a series for the first time in these playoffs, the Heat face another challenge in Friday night’s pivotal Game 4. To overcome this bit of adversity, they’ll have to channel everything that has gotten them to this point.

From One Champion to Another

Following Miami’s Game 2 win in the NBA Finals, Warriors coach Steve Kerr appeared on Draymond Green’s podcast and applauded Heat players for accepting their roles.

“None of those guys on Miami are sitting there saying, ‘Well I didn’t play’ or ‘Man, they put in so-and-so.’ They’re just all about winning,” Kerr said. “When you have that championship mentality, every guy is bought in.”

Together, Green and Kerr have won four championships with the Warriors. If anyone is qualified to break down how the Heat got this far, it’s them.

Kerr went on to say that the Heat understand the importance of putting their team first, and never have lost sight of their commitment to excellence and determination to overcome obstacles. He praised Spoelstra for building a culture that represents how basketball should be played, and said that’s the reason why they deserve to be in the position to contend for an NBA title.

Stop With the “Undrafted” Narrative

Duncan Robinson, Max Strus, Gabe Vincent and Caleb Martin are playing large roles for the Eastern Conference champions despite having gone undrafted when they entered the league. It’s been an easy storyline for the national media to point to, but Spoelstra and Green have grown tired of it.

“That’s so disrespectful,” Spoelstra said after Game 2, clearly exasperated by the topic. “That storyline is over.”

Green, who was overlooked in his own draft class and dropped to the second round, weighed in on Twitter and on his podcast.

"“They get paid to play this game like everyone else,” Green said. “Whether you were drafted one or 60 or undrafted, once you get in between the lines, what are you doing between these lines? So stop with the whole undrafted thing, man. I’m sure those guys get tired of hearing that because I get tired of hearing it.”"

These players have extraordinary stories worth telling, and have had to work hard to get to this point. Max Strus has contributed to the Heat’s 3-point shooting success and is unshaken by poor shooting performances. After going 0-10 in Game 1, he responded with 14 points on 4-10 shooting from beyond the arc in Game 2. After falling out of the regular-season rotation, Duncan Robinson has been among Miami’s biggest postseason sparks. Gabe Vincent and Caleb Martin have been major contributors on both ends of the court.

Vincent recently told Shaquille O’Neal during TNT’s Inside the NBA that he doesn’t care about media coverage, outside noise or perceived slights.

This is the same attitude that kept the Heat afloat after the play-in tournament, in Game 7 of the East finals, and set them up to overcome doubts in the Finals. In Game 2, the Heat became the first team to defeat the Nuggets in Denver this postseason.

Now facing a 2-1 hole in the Finals, the Heat will have to overcome adversity again. They’ll have another opportunity to protect home court in Game 4 on Friday and tie the series 2-2.