Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is at the peak of his powers

“It’s been a long time coming.” Those were the first words Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said to P.J. Tucker last August, after signing him to a two-year, $15 million contract. “We’ve been trying to get you over here for six or seven years.”

Coming off a championship run with the Bucks, Tucker nodded. He knew his no-nonsense nature would fit well with Spoelstra’s unwavering commitment to competition. But it took a little while before he realized just how singular his new coach was.

A grizzled 37-year-old veteran who’d spent more than 15 seasons on four NBA teams and several clubs across Europe, Tucker thought he’d seen everything. Then, in his first few days with the Heat, Spoelstra instructed Tucker to help off the strongside corner, disregarding a cardinal rule that NBA defenses tend to follow. Normally, a rotation would come from the opposite block. But Spoelstra wanted Tucker to protect the paint and the perimeter. “At the beginning I was like, ‘What? We’re doing what?’” he laughs. A corner three specialist himself, suddenly it dawned on Tucker why he’d had so many good games against the Heat. “You still don’t want to give up the corner three but you gotta help? I’d never seen that before. But I’ve learned to adjust and actually like it.”

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