Watching from the sidelines, Tyler Herro knew his Miami Heat teammates were going to defeat the New York Knicks in the playoffs last season, preserving hope that he might return from injury later in the postseason even though he was ultimately unable to.
After eliminating the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the 2023 NBA Playoffs, the Heat knocked out the Knicks in six games in the second round. After splitting the first two games in New York, Miami won Games 3, 4 and 6 at home to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics.
“It was tough emotionally,” Herro said. “My mind was set on making a good playoff run. When I first got hurt, everybody was like, ‘No way he’s coming back.’ We were the eighth seed, going against the Bucks. Then, we beat them. We knew we were gonna beat the Knicks. Then, Boston was a great series. I was just waiting for that series to see what was gonna happen – if I had any hope of coming back (during the playoffs).”
Miami took a 3-0 lead in the series against Boston and then had to go all the way to Game 7 before winning it. The Heat avoided becoming the first NBA team in history to lose a best-of-seven series after winning the first three games. They then fell short in the 2023 NBA Finals, losing to the Denver Nuggets in five games.
Herro appeared in only the first playoff game against the Bucks, when he injured his hand in the second quarter. He was working toward a return in the NBA Finals and was finally made available for Game 5 but was not used by head coach Erik Spoelstra in the season-ending loss.
The 23-year-old then became a main character in the NBA offseason as the rumored centerpiece of Miami’s trade offers to the Portland Trail Blazers for Damian Lillard. The Trail Blazers never showed a real interest in acquiring Herro and eventually dealt Lillard to the Milwaukee Bucks in a three-team trade that included the Phoenix Suns.
Now still with the Heat and preparing for the 2023-24 NBA season, the former Sixth Man of the Year has said he is glad Portland did not want him, and private messages have revealed how much he wanted to stay with Miami.
Though one NBA scout recently called him a “complete liability” on defense, Herro is expected to be one of the most important players for the Heat along with Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo this season.
Miami remains among the contenders for the NBA championship, and it will be interesting to see if Herro’s confidence in his team’s playoff chances carries over to this season.