New ‘Bully’ Center Thriving After Miami Heat Dodge Calamity

New ‘Bully’ Center Thriving After Miami Heat Dodge Calamity


Veteran big men Dewayne Dedmon and LaMarcus Aldridge embrace after a game earlier in their NBA careers.

Sometimes the moves you don’t make turn out to be the best ones. When the Miami Heat lost the LaMarcus Aldridge sweepstakes, it opened the door for them to sign Dewayne Dedmon. Three weeks later, Aldridge is out of the league and Dedmon is putting up double-doubles.

Aldridge chose to sign with the Brooklyn Nets over Miami, then abruptly retired last week due to an irregular heartbeat. He was showered with prayers and support from around the NBA. Meanwhile, Dedmon has quickly evolved into the Heat’s primary backup behind starting center Bam Adebayo.

Dedmon scored 10 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in 15 minutes on April 18 versus Brooklyn, then notched 12 points and six boards in 19 minutes against Houston on April 19 as the Heat stretched their winning streak to two games. The 31-year-old big man has embraced the “bully ball” role that rookie Precious Achiuwa has struggled to make his own.

“I didn’t put my hand up and say, ‘I can be the bully,’ but that’s just how I kind of play,” Dedmon told reporters. “I’m aggressive. I’m trying to get rebounds, trying to get shots for my teammates, trying to get them open, and that’s just part of my DNA.”

The 7-footer hadn’t played in over a year as he chose to sit out the Orlando bubble. He had last appeared in a game on March 11, 2020, as a member of the Atlanta Hawks before making his Heat debut on April 14. He’s been better than advertised, per head coach Erik Spoelstra, who worried about how quickly he could get him back into basketball shape.

“He’s a savvy veteran. He’s a big muscle defender, extra effort guy,” Spoelstra said. “He can fit into a lot of different systems like he has, and he’s been a starter for several years, so we were thrilled to be able to get him at this time of the year, that goes without saying.”

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Andre Iguodala Provides Vintage Performance

Spoelstra was forced to tinker with his starting lineup with several key players missing due to injury. Jimmy Butler (ankle), Tyler Herro (foot), Victor Oladipo (foot) were all ruled out on Sunday night versus Houston. That left the door open for veteran Andre Iguodala to start and get 28 minutes. The 37-year-old turned back the clock by logging 16 points, six rebounds, seven assists, two blocks for a remarkable +38.

“Quite honestly, I’ve been tired for a couple of days now. I was tired today,” Iguodala told reporters. “I didn’t even shoot before the game, so you just take yourself to a place mentally. Think of it like high school on Saturday morning when you’re meeting your friends and you just got something to prove to your friends and you’re just having fun.”

Iguodala’s “fun” was important in keeping the Heat on track, but it was a collective effort by the entire roster. Spoelstra rolled out a starting five featuring Iguodala, Achiuwa, Trevor Ariza, Kendrick Nunn, Duncan Robinson, with veteran guard Goran Dragic — a game-time decision himself — seeing 28 minutes off the bench.

“We have a lot of veteran experience still out there. I think that helped stabilize things with the young guys. Andre was terrific tonight,” Spoelstra said. “Goran really looked alive and Dedmon gave us some really good minutes again. Trevor is so steady and just fits in so well, in terms of how we play.”

And the bench. The Heat outscored the Rockets 34-21 with their second unit, paced by Dragic’s 19 and Dedmon’s 12.

“I think they’ve gotten a lot better over the last several weeks,” Spoelstra said. “Certainly much more productive and consistent to winning basketball than in early January when we were playing a lot of guys and going deep into our bench then. We’re going to need this, the schedule’s not going to let up.”

Kendrick Nunn Stating Playoff Rotation Case

It’s going to be hard to leave Kendrick Nunn out of the playoff rotation. Even if Oladipo returns in time — it’s up to him since there is no additional structural damage to his right knee — it appears as if Nunn may have played himself into a role anyway.

The second-year guard scored a game-high 30 points on Sunday and has put up double digits in seven of his last nine games for the Heat. He’s averaging 13.8 points per game this year after finishing as last season’s Rookie of the Year runner-up. His versatility and willingness to start or come off the bench at the drop of a hat hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“He was in a great rhythm and flow,” Spoelstra told reporters on Sunday. “He’s proven at different points in the season that he can take a lot of points on the board and he can do it in a hurry, and we need that.”