Former Miami Heat player uncovers some negative side effects that come with ‘Heat culture’

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Andre Iguodala joined the Miami Heat in the later stages of his NBA career, and the veteran admitted he encountered some negative side effects to the vaunted Heat culture.

“I shouldn’t say this ’cause it might be taken the wrong way, but whatever,” Iguodala said. “Like when you go to prison, you get handed your orange suit and them flip-flops. I got handed my jersey, practice jersey, practice shorts, socks. Then you get your knee pads and mouthpiece. And I was like, ‘Nah, I don’t need that. I don’t wear knee braces or mouthpieces.’

“He was like, ‘Yes you do.’ I’m like, ‘Bro, I been in the league for 15, 16 years. I’ve had success.’ And he’s like, ‘No, you need that.’ And I’m like, ‘Here y’all go.’

“But once I embraced it, I’m like, ‘Huh, we do play harder than everybody in the league, and this does matter at the end of the year.’

“But there are side effects to that. And my second year in Miami we were like last in the league in wide-open shot percentage. I had a great conversation with a few of the coaches, and they’ve changed a little bit. I’ve seen that.

“I noticed that that stress of like just being locked in, it affects you when, like, ‘Don’t miss a wide-open shot.’ ‘Cause they work you. You workin’ out there. Like you work in practice harder than the game.

“I always tell the guys like, ‘Yo, the game is easy. We work too damn hard to be stressed on the court.’ But your brain is always locked in of like, ‘Don’t make mistakes’ sometimes ’cause you’re so locked in.

“We missed a whole lot of wide-open shots. And I would look at Duncan [Robinson]. You know Duncan’s my guy. I love Duncan to death. Duncan missed a wide-open shot, you would think the world’s about to end. He was like, ‘No, I’m out here to shoot. I can never miss.’

“Now I love that mindset. … I’m like, ‘Duncan, if you miss a shot, that don’t mean we gonna stop passing to you.’ But I think there’s some correlation there.”

Iguodala was a 15-season NBA veteran when he joined the Heat for the 2019-20 campaign, which ended with a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals. He played an additional season with Miami before playing the past two campaigns for the Golden State Warriors, where he previously won three NBA titles and added another in 2022.

The Heat culture has long been a topic of conversation in NBA circles, with some acknowledging its importance while others dismiss it.

Prior to the 2023 Eastern Conference Finals, Boston Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla downplayed its significance by saying all teams have a culture. It became even more talked about after the Heat nearly blew a 3-0 lead in the series before winning Game 7, with a longtime former NBA veteran saying it would have been “eviscerated” if Miami had squandered that opportunity.

This summer, Minnesota Timberwolves star Anthony Edwards had nothing but good things to say about the Heat culture while working with Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra, who was an assistant coach for Team USA at the 2023 FIBA World Cup. The 22-year-old mentioned the energy and attention to detail that Spoelstra brought to the group.

It is hard to argue with the on-court success the culture has fostered under the guidance of Pat Riley and Spoelstra. Miami has won three NBA championships and lost in the Finals four other times, including last season when it was defeated by the Denver Nuggets.

They are poised to contend for the title again, especially if they are finally able to land Damian Lillard from the Portland Trail Blazers. The 33-year-old requested a trade almost three months ago, but talks stagnated before the Trail Blazers reportedly reignited them recently.

If Lillard does land with Miami, it will be interesting to see if his initial reaction to joining the Heat culture is similar to Iguodala’s first impression.

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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.