After enduring another season of trade rumors, Tyler Herro is working to free himself from distraction and take things as they come.
That includes on the court, where Herro so far this preseason has shown more willingness to take what the defense gives him. Ask his Miami Heat coaches and teammates what’s changed in Herro’s game, and all will point to the game “slowing down.”
“Tyler studies the game,” Erik Spoelstra said after Sunday’s 132-124 preseason win over the Grizzlies at Kaseya Center. “It takes time and, sometimes after a few years, things just really start to slow down.”
Herro on Sunday scored 30 points on an efficient 11 of 19 shooting to lead his team that was without Jimmy Butler (dental issue) and several other rotation players. Herro took shots as they came, cutting off Bam Adebayo for baseline drives, attacking when his defender was flat-footed, and rising up to shoot when the opponent when under the screen.
The Miami Heat need Tyler Herro to improve, and so far this preseason he’s doing that by taking what the defense gives him.
“The game’s slowing down,” Herro said. “Staying low on everything and then rising up and being aggressive. Just taking what they give me. Not burning so many calories.”
Herro has had a tendency to dribble himself into trouble in the past, but coaches have worked with him to make smarter decisions with the ball that lead to easier, less-contested looks.
“Spo has helped me tremendously since we started working together this summer and into the season,” Herro said. “On back cuts, pump fakes, not having to dribble, just being real patient with the ball in my hands or off the ball. Just being patient and taking whatever they give me.”
The improvement has not gone unnoticed by his teammates. Butler and Adebayo are the team’s stars and, after the Heat failed to complete a trade for Damian Lillard this summer, they will need Herro to take a leap for Miami’s offense to improve from last season’s 25th-ranked unit.
“Man, he’s just so efficient now,” Adebayo said. “His movements, less dribble, not trying to do much, and get straight to his point and get straight to his shots.”
Herro has averaged 20 points over the last two seasons. Two years ago, he won Sixth Man of the Year after taking a substantial leap in his third season. Now in his fifth season, the Heat are asking the 23-year-old guard to take another jump in efficiency. If the preseason is any indication, that leap might be coming.
“That’s my job,” Herro said. “They didn’t draft me to be the same player I was when I got drafted. They drafted me to come here and improve, make my teammates better.”
Heading into training camp, many wondered if Herro would approach the season with urgency or if he’d be affected by the summer of trade rumors. The Lillard saga went on for nearly three months before the Portland Trail Blazers traded him to the Milwaukee Bucks. All the while, Herro’s future remained up in the air. Spend any time around him and the team and it’s clear Herro is playing with a chip on his shoulder. But Herro has not allowed that to get in the way of improving in a way that helps the team that nearly traded him this summer.
“I wouldn’t even call it revenge or a bounce back,” Herro said. “It’s just a year to be myself and just have fun, enjoying what I love to do, which is playing basketball. And (Sunday) was a little of it.”
There’s also an appropriate amount of perspective. The Heat still have two remaining preseason games before the regular-season opener on Oct. 25 against the Detroit Pistons.
“But,” Herro said, “it’s still preseason.”