Heat forward thinks many players lack mental and physical strength needed to succeed in Miami

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Haywood Highsmith just finished his third season with the Miami Heat, and the 27-year-old has learned that the team’s standards aren’t for everybody, with some NBA players not “mentally and physically strong enough” to hack it there.

“It’s been all about winning championships,” Highsmith told HoopsHype of the Heat culture. “That’s the top priority. They’re a team that’s always going to try to compete for a championship each year. You never hear anything about them tanking or none of that stuff. It feels like a family there. They’re going to tell you how it is. They’re not going to sugarcoat it. It’s a place that’s not for everybody, for sure. A lot of people can’t stick out there if they go there because they’re not mentally and physically strong enough. They’re going to push you for sure because they’re trying to get the best out of you and win a championship. Heat culture is real. I’ve been blessed to be a part of that for the past three years.”

Despite being eliminated from the 2024 NBA Playoffs in the first round, the Heat have been perennial contenders for the championship, having reached the 2023 NBA Finals as well as the 2020 NBA Finals. Though they lost both of those series and have not won the title since 2013, they did advance to the Eastern Conference Finals three times in a four-season span from 2020 to 2023.

That could make Miami an attractive landing spot for Donovan Mitchell if the Cleveland Cavaliers ultimately decide to part with their star player possibly in a trade. Whether Mitchell is the type of player Highsmith is referring to would be interesting to find out.

Injuries had a significant impact on the Heat this season, as Highsmith was one of only four players to appear in as many as 65 regular season games. For example, franchise player Jimmy Butler appeared in only 60 regular season games and then missed all of the five-game first-round playoff loss to the Boston Celtics after getting injured in their first play-in tournament game.

An undrafted player who played at the NCAA Division II level, Highsmith has been able to carve out a useful role primarily as a reserve under head coach Erik Spoelstra. This season, he averaged 6.1 points and 3.2 rebounds per game in 66 regular season appearances that included 26 starts.

About to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, he could be in line for a significant contract. He said he would love to stay with the Heat, showing he believes himself capable of dealing with their high standards and the challenges they present.

“I’d love to stay in Miami for sure,” Highsmith said. “I feel like I’ve built a great life out here. My daughter lives out here as well. If all things are close, I definitely would love to stay in Miami, but we’ll see when that time comes. I’ll still be the same person no matter how much I get paid or whatever happens. I’ll still be in the gym locked in and trying to win a championship.”

The Heat certainly will look to further improve their roster this coming offseason. It remains to be seen where Highsmith fits in those plans.

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has covered the NBA for almost three decades. His introduction to the business included the legendary Heat-Knicks rivalry from the 1990s.