The Indiana-Iowa back-to-back set is not exactly a staple of NBA life, unless, of course, you are living the two-way life.
In that case, the itinerary could just as easily be Delaware as Detroit, Lakeland as Los Angeles, Birmingham as Boston.
“Your phone’s always charged,” Miami Heat guard Gabe Vincent said. “I’ll tell you that much. You never know when you’ll get the call. You stay on the move.”
The discussion again became relevant for the Heat over the weekend when, after spending training camp with the Heat’s G League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, undrafted wing Jamal Cain was summoned to join the Heat on Friday in Indiana at part of his two-way contract, in the wake of roster-depleting injuries.
Cain said hello to his once-and-again Heat teammates at Friday’s morning shootaround at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. By Friday night, he was saying goodbye to those Heat teammates, off to Des Moines for the Skyforce’s Saturday G League season opener against the Iowa Wolves.
It is a life the Heat’s Vincent, Duncan Robinson, Caleb Martin and Haywood Highsmith are all familiar with, each having lived the two-way life.
“I lived out of my suitcase, so I never took my stuff out,” Martin said, having lived the two-way life with the Hornets, bouncing between Charlotte and their Greensboro, N.C., G League affiliate. “I would just wash it, put it back in, just in case I got called back up.”
For Highsmith, the two-way life was split between the Philadelphia 76ers and their Delaware affiliate.
“It was like always being ready for whatever, any day you’re on a two-way contract,” Hghsmith said, with the Heat playing the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday night at FTX Arena. “So if stuff happened, you’re called up. Then you’re back down.
“You can’t really be too comfortable at one spot any time, because you could be going here to there.”
By rule, those on two-way contracts can be on NBA active rosters for a maximum of 50 of the 82 regular-season games. Even though he did not play Friday against the Pacers, by being active, it counted against Cain’s limit. Entering the week, he has used three of his active-roster games, yet to see his first NBA action.
Cain was featured as a starter in both Skyforce losses over the weekend to the Iowa Wolves. Saturday night he closed with 17 points and 13 rebounds in his G League debut. Sunday, he finished with 23 points and eight rebounds.
Cain said the transition is eased with the Heat and Skyforce utilizing a similar terminology and system.
“It’s definitely similar just in terms of the intensity, the way they want to practice and some of the stuff to be run,” said the product of Marquette and Oakland universities. “Some of the plays and play styles will basically be the same. But the weather is a little different.”
And therein lies the rub. While almost all other G League affiliates are in either the same market as their parent teams or in the same or a contiguous state, 1,800 miles separate Miami and Sioux Falls.
Which means you know both when you’re not in Miami or not in South Dakota.
“It’s a stark contrast particularly between Sioux Falls and Miami, so that’s a big adjustment,” Robinson said.
But so is the balancing act.
“You almost never know ahead of time,” Vincent said of being summoned. “I had it when I joined the Heat. I think there was a month and a half where I never really saw the Sioux Falls apartment. I was kind of just back and forth and living in hotels.”
“For sure,” he said. “Between hotels, and even when you’re in Miami, you’re staying in a hotel. Sioux Falls you can unpack a little bit, but you might get the call anytime.”
As Cain did, to both come and go, hoping to be back soon enough.
“It tests you mentally,” Martin said. “You might be going down and playing 30-plus minutes and you might be coming up and watching the whole game. It’s just a good way to keep your mind ready.
“You’ve just always got to be ready.”
Vincent’s advice to Cain?
“Welcome to it,” he said of the two-way life. “Enjoy it. Have fun with it. Keep working.”
Oh, and one more thing.
“When you’re flying back and forth, find the longest route to get your miles,” he said. “I made sure I got my miles.”