Erik Spoelstra expounds upon not playing Nikola Jovic: ‘He has to earn those minutes’'
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Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra explained that first-round pick Nikola Jovic needs to earn his minutes at the NBA level this season.

The Heat recently assigned Jovic to the G League so he could see more playing time as he develops his game. At just 19 years old, there still is a bright future for Jovic at the NBA level.

“Everything is important for him this year, really,” Spoelstra said. “When he’s with us, it’s important just to see how we operate, what expected from a workload standpoint, from a player development standpoint. Also, learning how to stay ready so you don’t have to get ready and that your opportunities can happen at any time. We’re not just going to play him 40-plus minutes. He has to earn those minutes and contribute to winning to be able to get more minutes.”

Jovic was thrust into Miami’s rotation at points early on in the 2022-23 season because of injuries to several key players on the Heat.

With Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo all missing large chunks of the season, Miami needed the rookie to step up.

Jovic, who was the No. 27 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, is averaging 6.4 points, 2.5 rebounds and 0.9 assists per game while shooting 40.4 percent from the field and 21.4 percent from beyond the arc for the Heat this season.

The 19-year-old has appeared in 11 games and is playing 15.4 minutes per contest, but he only played in one game for the Heat from Nov. 27 through Dec. 8 before he was sent to the G League.

For now, the Heat have most of their rotation players healthy, which has led to less minutes being available for the rookie.

It makes sense that Spoelstra wants Jovic to earn his time, especially since the Heat have a veteran team that is focused on competing for an NBA title this season.

Last season, Miami finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference in the regular season and eventually made the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Heat came up short of the NBA Finals, losing to the Boston Celtics in seven games. However, the team proved that its current core is good enough to make a deep playoff run.

With P.J. Tucker leaving the Heat in free agency this past offseason, Caleb Martin has moved into the starting lineup. It’s possible that Jovic could work his way into a bench role for the Heat this season, possibly similar to the one that Martin played in the 2021-22 campaign.

While he is still learning how to contribute at the NBA level, Jovic did score in double figures in back-to-back games earlier this season.

He finished with 13 points against the Toronto Raptors on Nov. 16, and then followed up that performance with an 18-point game against the Washington Wizards on Nov. 18.

The Heat and Spoelstra are hoping he can continue to build on his skills in the G League to eventually contribute to the Heat this season.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.