Miami Heat big man Kevin Love has started three games for the team so far this season. But on Friday — when the Heat played the Washington Wizards in an In-Season Tournament game — Miami opted to start Haywood Highsmith instead of Love.
Not only did Love not start against Washington, but he didn’t log a single minute of playing time. Highsmith, meanwhile, played 22 minutes and finished with eight points on 2-of-3 shooting from behind the 3-point line in the Heat win.
Love opened up on getting benched for Highsmith.
“I think the word is ‘fluid,’” Love said. “There’s going to be opportunity, places for me throughout the season where it makes sense, big. It’s just that so many teams are playing four smalls and one bigs, so I think you’re seeing that a lot.
“I think we were searching. Obviously 1-4 is never the way you want to start, but it’s on all of us to be pros, and our number’s called, be ready to go.”
The 35-year-old was a valuable 3-point shooter for the Heat during their historic run to the NBA Finals a season ago. He knocked down an impressive 37.5 percent of his 3-point shots on 4.4 attempts per game across 20 playoff appearances with the Heat.
Love shot the ball particularly well against the Milwaukee Bucks — who owned the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference — in the first round of the playoffs. The big man averaged 9.8 points and 7.4 rebounds per game while converting 43.3 percent of his 3-point field-goal attempts.
Miami defeated Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brook Lopez and the Bucks in five games in what was one of the bigger upsets of the 2023 playoffs.
In the offseason, the Heat rewarded Love for his solid play during the playoffs with a two-year deal.
In three appearances with Miami this season, Love is averaging 8.3 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. He’s shooting just 36.4 percent from the field, however.
For comparison, Highsmith is averaging 8.5 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.0 assist per game in two games played with the Heat. The 26-year-old is shooting the ball more efficiently than Love is, seeing as how he’s made 66.7 percent of his shots from the field.
Credit to Love for his ability to take getting benched with maturity. Love’s playing time with Miami may be sporadic throughout this season, but whenever head coach Erik Spoelstra wants to add shooting on the floor, he can confidently turn to Love.