Erik Spoelstra says Nikola Jovic is ‘earning the respect of everybody in the locker room’'
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The Miami Heat are a bit undermanned at the moment, with several of their players nursing injuries.

While those injuries have made it hard for the team to get in the win column lately, the circumstances have provided opportunities for other players to get some reps and see more playing time.

One of those who has seen a bump in minutes is Nikola Jovic. The rookie started the Heat’s last two games, and according to coach Erik Spoelstra, he has started to gain respect in Miami’s locker room.

“And he’s not afraid of the moment,” Spoelstra said of Jovic. “So he’s comfortable out there. He’s earning the respect of everybody in the locker room. He’s earning his stripes right now.”

After the franchise drafted Jovic with the No. 27 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, it did not take long for the 6-foot-10 pro to get noticed around the league.

His performance in Summer League displayed his potential to at least be a rotation player in Miami. Then in the preseason, the 19-year-old recorded averages of 9.8 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game and connected on 34.6 percent of his shots from beyond the arc.

Of course, his game still needs work, particularly when it comes to defense and rebounding. Those are skills he may have to learn on the fly, as the Heat’s upcoming games won’t be easy for the team’s big men.

On Sunday, Miami will face Cleveland Cavaliers on the road and go up against a tough frontcourt duo in Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley. The Heat will have their hands full, as the duo called “Frobley” has been playing well as of late.

After the Cavs game, the Heat will travel to face the Minnesota Timberwolves. That matchup will present another major challenge for Miami’s bigs, as Minnesota employs a talented frontcourt that includes Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns.

The upcoming stretch of contests will be a good test for Jovic, especially if he gets significant playing time. But if Spoelstra is to be believed, the 19-year-old is up to the task after averaging 15.5 points and 4.5 rebounds in 27.0 minutes per game in his last two contests.

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Orel writes all day, everyday. During the day, he writes and does research to complete his master's degree in education. During the night, he writes about the league he has loved since the '90s: the NBA.