Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra talks Playoffs, Heat culture and Dion Waiters


The NBA is celebrating the first-ever Filipino Heritage Week and Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra joined a few members of Philippine media on Tuesday night to talk on a wide range of topics.

In an exclusive Cisco video conference, Coach Spo shared a few of his thoughts on the Miami Heat’s season.

He also talked about the NBA’s initiative of having the first-ever Filipino Heritage Week, the Heat’s push towards the postseason, and their ultimate confidence guy, Dion Waiters.

The interview has been edited and condensed.

On the Heat winning 21 of their last 26 games:

This group has been really committed. Even when we were 11-30, I liked the progress that the team was making. I liked the approach and the attitude. We just continued to work at it.

Did we see this kind of run coming on? Or that it would happen? I’m not sure that we did. But we approached every single day to be grateful to have this team together. The players enjoy coming to work every single day. We want to give ourselves the best chance in the playoffs.

It’s a good lesson. If you just focus on the process, and not the result, things can happen for you. It doesn’t have to be overnight improvements. There hasn’t been an “Aha! moment” with this team. It’s been a slow incremental improvement. It’s a joy to be a part of.

On his friend former Heat assistant and current Memphis Grizzlies head coach Dave Fizdale:

First of all, he’s a great basketball mind, one of the best basketball teachers. When he’s in a gym, it’s a special thing to observe. When he teaches, it can make complex things seem pretty easy and that’s a great skill.

It was a big loss for me. I felt like I lost an arm, that’s how much I leaned on him. But he’s still one of my closest friends. We’re thrilled for him there. He’s in a dogfight right now in the Western Conference.

Getting into the playoffs:

I think the temptation right now would be to obsess about the standings and obsess about what other things are doing. Our process has to remain on us. We gotta continue to try to play our brand of basketball.

It’ll take care of itself. I know it’s cliché but it will.

Visiting the Philippines:

There’s definitely been talk about it. Actually for the last couple of years. It’s something that we definitely continue to do. I would anticipate a trip there sooner or later.

On celebrating Filipino Heritage Week as a fellow Filipino:

It’s pretty amazing isn’t it? You think about how much things have changed in the NBA and to be able to be recognized like this.

At first, I thought it was just gonna be with us. And then I found out Golden State was involved and that it was gonna be honored around the NBA, I had goosebumps thinking about it. Obviously my heritage is important to me and my family. I’m proud to be Filipino but when it’s been recognized by the NBA, it’s a special thing.

The play of Dion Waiters:

Dion has been a joy to coach. I didn’t know him before this. We didn’t know what to expect but we’re fans on what he’s been able to do the last couple of years in OKC. He was a big part of that team. From what we saw, we thought he could be a good fit. We wanted to be open-minded and not necessarily listen to the reputation about him.

I thought he was really open-minded to our culture. We have a saying here: “We’re not for everybody.” That doesn’t mean it’s better or worse or anything in between. There’s a particular player that we look for. If they’re open-minded to our culture and to work ethic, it can be a beautiful thing. I think you’re seeing another big step in his career. Who knows what the ceiling can be?

At end of games, I don’t know if there’s any more guys in this league who’s more confident in the end. In pressure situations, you need guys like that. It’s a competitive league, you need guys who think they can conquer the world.

Photo c/o the Miami Heat’s Facebook page

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