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Kerry Eggers on Sports: Miami coach returns to Portland balancing fatherhood with new arrivals to his club

PMG FILE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - SPOELSTRAIt has been a busy week for Erik Spoelstra, and we're not talking about life in the Spoelstra's Miami household.

Spoelstra and his wife just had their second child, Dante, who is nine weeks old. Dante's older brother, Santiago, checks in at 22 months.

"It's wild around our house," Spoelstra said Friday from Sacramento, where his Miami Heat were facing the Kings. "Nikki is doing fantastic holding down the fort at home while I'm on this road trip. We have our hands full chasing around two little boys."

For now, Spoelstra has his hands full guiding the Heat (34-17) on a five-game trip that hits Portland on Sunday. It's especially so after the six-player trade with Memphis that brought Andre Iguodala, Jae Crowder and Solomon Hill to the Heat.

"We feel really good about the guys coming in," said Spoelstra, the former Jesuit High and University of Portland point guard who is in his 12th season at the Heat helm. "We think their culture fits, and they all have veteran playoff experience. Andre's championship experience (with Golden State) is so invaluable."

Iguodala was in Sacramento with the Heat on Friday but did not play. He'll be in Portland, but Spoelstra wouldn't commit to him playing against the Blazers (6 p.m. Sunday).

"We'll see," he said. "It's not something I'm going to look to fast-track. We'll get him into a practice and see where he's at physically."

Iguodala will likely come off the bench, though Spoelstra phrases it differently.

"We have like seven starters, with Goran Dragic and Andre," he said. "We have two or three 'sixth men.'"

Iguodala and Crowder are 6-6 forwards with savvy and experience.

"We like the way Jae competes and approaches the game," Spoelstra said. "He's physical, can handle multiple positions. There's a bonus, too. I got a text from Dwyane (Wade) after the trade: 'We added another Marquette guy.'"

The 6-7 Hill "is a 3-and-D guy with size and a lot of versatility," Spoelstra said. "All of these guys will help."

The Heat were doing well before they arrived, thanks in no small part to the addition of small forward Jimmy Butler and the emergence of power forward Bam Adebayo. Both will represent Miami in the All-Star Game next Sunday.

"Jimmy has been fantastic," Spoelstra said. "We've been looking for somebody to assume the face of the franchise role after Dwyane's retirement. That was the biggest and most important move we made last summer. We felt that would start the dominoes going in the right direction, to find a max player who shares our values. We love the way he competes, the way he approaches competition, winning and being a pro.

"Bam's improvement has been incremental for two and a half years. The first two years, nobody paid attention because we didn't win at a high enough level. Now he has taken the next step to play at an All-Star level and become the next Miami Heat leader along with Jimmy. The next chapter in 'Jimmy and Bam.'"

Another Miami player to watch is shooting guard Duncan Robinson, who has made at least two 3-pointers in a franchise-record 21 games. He was 6 for 9 on 3-point attempts and scored 18 points Friday night in a 105-97 loss at Sacramento.

"Duncan is on course to break our franchise (single-season) record in 3's, too," Spoelstra said. "It's a tremendous story, a former Division III player (at Williams College) who has shown incredible persistence and grit to get where he is."

Spoelstra said he has kept tabs on Portland center Hassan Whiteside, who played the five previous seasons with the Heat and departed on unsettled circumstances.

"I root for Hassan," he said. "We all do. We invested a lot of time together. There are so many false narratives out there. That was a great experience, with Hassan literally playing in a local YMCA league before we picked him up.

"We tried to help him on his journey to reach his dreams and create a winner. We had a shot at it for three or four years; then it was time to turn the page on that group of players and start something new. But we enjoy watching him have success and having an impact on the Blazers."

Miami is in fourth place in the East, three games ahead of fifth-place Philadelphia, and a reasonable goal would be to attain homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Spoelstra — who turns 50 in November — chooses to frame it in different terms, emphasizing that there is no building in the future when the Heat can contend now.

"I'm not putting a number of wins or losses or where we'll finish out there," he said. "What I'll say is, the move we made (at the trade deadline) and our record affirms that this team has earned the opportunity to make it about now.

"We feel good about how this team has grown. That's why we made this move. It's an opportunity for us to get to another level. It's going to be super competitive going down the stretch, with the top four teams in the East huddled around each other. The way we're approaching this now is, this team has earned the right for it to be about now."

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@kerryeggers


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