Heat coach Erik Spoelstra reveals why Nikola Jovic hasn't been playing

Nikola Jovic, the second-year forward, has yet to earn a regular role in the Miami Heat's rotation.

Miami Heat v Milwaukee Bucks
Miami Heat v Milwaukee Bucks / Patrick McDermott/GettyImages
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Nikola Jovic hasn’t played much for the Miami Heat this season, so he’s been sent down to the G League to get some reps.

“He needs to play,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said over the weekend after the organization decided to send Jovic to their G League affiliate in Sioux Falls. “That’s the most important thing.”

Jovic had 26 points on 8 for 15 shooting (4 of 8 from 3-point range), three rebounds and three assists in 33 minutes in the Sioux Falls Skyforce’s loss over the Wisconsin Herd on Sunday.

The Heat remain high on Nikola Jovic but sent him to the G League so he can get valuable playing time.

The Heat are on the road for four more games following Saturday’s loss in Chicago, so the organization decided to send Jovic to their G League affiliate so he can get some playing time, which hasn’t been available with the NBA club.

Jovic has played in just two games for a total of 28 minutes with the Heat this season. As the roster gets healthier – Caleb Martin returned from a knee injury last week – opportunity is scarce. Between the emergence of rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr., Haywood Highsmith and Kevin Love, minutes at power forward are spoken for. 

The G League season began last weekend, allowing little-used Heat players to play. In addition to Jovic, Miami's two-way players Jamal Cain and Cole Swider also played in Sunday's game.

“I would like to get him [Jovic] a few games,” Spoelstra said. “This will be a shorter stint. We’ll evaluate and go from there.”

The plan is for Jovic to play in the G League for the remainder of the Heat’s trip, which includes another game in Chicago (Monday, 8 p.m.) and stops in New York and Brooklyn. Miami’s next home game is Nov. 28 against the Bucks.

Jovic will likely return at some point during that three-game homestand, but the Heat want to send the 20-year-old forward back and forth this season. Spoelstra said he anticipates a longer stay for Jovic in Sioux Falls after this initial stint.

The No. 27 pick in last year’s draft, Jovic has started his second season out of the Heat rotation. He has received eight DNP-CDs and also missed time because of a non-COVID illness. 

Jovic’s defense and rebounding remain a work in progress and are reasons why he hasn’t carved out a role in the rotation, but the Heat remain intrigued by his combination of size and skill as a 6-foot-10 forward who can handle the ball, shoot and push the pace in transition. 

Jovic was a big part of Serbia’s national team run in the FIBA World Cup this past summer and was among the most impressive young players during Heat training camp in October.

“He’s really progressed,” Spoelstra said. “He just looks like a totally different guy. We’re excited about having him play in these games in Sioux Falls. This is a big part of his development.”


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