The Miami Heat know Marcus Garrett is not a quitter. That works in his favor.
The Heat appreciate Garrett’s defensive guile. That is what has intrigued.
And when it comes to perseverance, which stands among Erik Spoelstra’s preferred attributes, the persistence of the 24-year-old over these past two seasons has been beyond reproach.
If the name sounds familiar, it should.
For each of the past two seasons, including this one, the guard who went undrafted out of Kansas in 2021 has been on a Heat two-way contract, poised to prove where he might stand on the NBA’s defensive-peskiness continuum between, say, Briante Weber and Patrick Beverley, two others who received their initial NBA tryouts with the Heat.
But for each of these past two seasons, wrist surgery has gotten in the way.
Last season, that cost Garrett his Heat two-way in January in favor of Kyle Guy.
This season, during the preseason, it cost Garrett his Heat two-way deal in favor of Dru Smith.
Now working back within the Heat sphere for a second time, playing for the G League Sioux Falls Skyforce, Garrett said he won’t stop knocking on that door, even if some might view it as banging his head against a wall.
“I know they’re big on their development and giving chances,” Garrett said by phone to the Sun Sentinel during a Skyforce road trip. “So being ready is kind of the key.”
It took a while to get ready this time, nearly three months away from the game after the latest wrist procedure, before making his season debut on New Year’s Eve with the Skyforce, the Heat’s G League affiliate.
“Since I got out of college, I’ve barely played a full season,” he said after a Skyforce shootaround. “This is like me coming out of college, knowing that I still don’t have the experience.”
But he has gotten a taste, which is why he knows he wants more.
Last season, there were 12 games with the Heat. During this past preseason, there were four more appearances in a Heat uniform.
So close, and yet, at the moment, so far.
“It was three months of rehabbing the fracture in my wrist,” he said of the time split between Miami and Sioux Falls. “It was kind of a grind, taking it slow, not rushing it back.”
This time, Garrett hopes it is for real. For a player such as Weber, there were multiple opportunities offered by the Heat to make the grade. Garrett is hoping for something similar.
“I’m just keeping faith, knowing this is something I’ve wanted to do my whole life and been preparing for,” he said. “So not to let these little stoppages stop my goal.”
Most importantly, he still has arguably the most important eyes in the organization on his progress.
“I actually really admire the perseverance that he’s shown,” Spoelstra said amid the Heat’s four-game homestand. “It’s been two straight years when he’s been out, but still developing in our program. All of the rehab is with us. And we’ve stayed in contact with him. We’ve told him that we still want to develop him and see this through.
“I think he’s improved. Even with the injury, I’ve seen progress in the two years. And I just enjoy watching the grit.”
The numbers with the Skyforce hardly have been overwhelming, but the scoring and shooting have started to come around, which is significant.
The defense, at least the fullcourt-pressure defense, has been undeniable since that first Heat appearance, in 2021 summer league.
And that is significant, considering the priority the Heat have placed on steals and forcing turnovers.
“I feel what I provide defensively is something I’ve provided since I got there,” he said.
Duly noted, said Spoelstra, who even offered a comparison to Heat defensive pest Victor Oladipo.
“I think he has an elite defensive skill set,” Spoelstra said. “The way he moves laterally, the only guy I can compare it to is Vic. And the other parts of his game are intriguing. I think with his health, and in the program, you’ll see his offense improve with the player development. But that’s the intriguing part, to see where he can develop and where he can go.”
By rule, Garrett is available to be signed by any NBA team. But that’s not the thought at the moment.
Instead, it’s with the team that largely stood by him, including time with Heat assistant coach Octavio De La Grana during last season’s playoffs, when Garrett wasn’t even formally with the team, but rather doing his rehab after his initial Heat procedure on the wrist.
Based on Jamal Cain and Orlando Robinson holding the Heat two-way contracts, that door appears closed, with teams limited to two such deals. A 10-day contract also appears unlikely, even with the Heat’s available roster spot, because of the team’s position hard against the luxury tax.
But there also is the reality that any time Garrett has been healthy the past two seasons, he has been a member of the Heat.
So there’s that, too.
“It just gives you the drive to want to do more; you’re kind of feeling that you’re right there,” Garrett said. “That it’s just a tad bit out of your reach, you keep going to get it.”
With the Heat’s eyes wide open.
“Every player’s path is different,” Spoelstra said. “But ultimately you’re going to have to show some grit and resilience. And he’s shown that. We’re following him out there.”
IN THE LANE
TRADE DEFICIT: The Heat’s impending three-game trip that opens Monday against the Atlanta Hawks and ends Friday against the Dallas Mavericks will bring them face-to-face with what has grown into arguably one of the worst trades in NBA history. It was on draft night in 2018 when the Hawks traded the draft rights of Luka Doncic to the Mavericks for the draft rights to Trae Young and a pick that turned out to be since-dealt (and underachieving) Cam Reddish. Doncic is in the running for MVP; Young seemingly has the Hawks running for cover with a self-centric style that has not played well in the locker room or coaching suite. Caught in the middle is West Palm Beach Cardinal Newman product John Collins, with the 25-year-old power forward again caught in a swirl of trade rumors. “I’m in a sort of familiar place, right, with the cloud and all that,” Collins told The Athletic. “Obviously, that stuff is draining and not something you necessarily have to deal with. But it’s part of the business, so I try to just not really think about it, honestly. I try to go out there and play the best basketball I can. But not to say that I don’t know, but I sort of just do know, right?”
ALTERNATE REALITY: Unless the fire marshal is willing to look the other way, Erik Spoelstra’s idea of staging a Heat game at 37,000-seat LoanDepot Park to eclipse Friday night’s record NBA crowd in San Antonio is unrealistic. But what continues to make sense would be staging an NBA All-Star Game, with the retractable roof open, at the Miami Marlins’ stadium. The concern has long been the coinciding Miami International Boat Show and Coconut Grove Arts festival limiting hotel and convention-center space during President’s Weekend. But Miami under the stars (with the stars) in February makes too much sense to bypass. It also opens additional seating to keep Heat season-ticket holders placated.
WORDS FROM WISE: With the Oklahoma City Thunder visiting this past week, Heat captain Udonis Haslem was asked about the type of foot surgery he underwent in November 2010 that has Thunder rookie Chet Holmgren sidelined for the season. “I had screws in my foot. I took them out after the season. But initially there were screws in there,” Haslem told The Oklahoman of his torn Lisfranc ligament. “After the season, after we lost in the Finals to Dallas, I had the screws removed.” Haslem had the procedure when he was 30; Holmgren is 20. “He’ll be back,” Haslem said of the No. 2 pick in last June’s NBA Draft. “And he may be back to 100 percent faster than me, because he’s younger and technology is better. But I would say overall to be back to where I was before I got hurt, it was about a year and a half, two-year process.”
WAITING GAME: As the Jae Crowder situation continues to play out without resolution, the former Heat forward, in an interview with Yahoo Sports, made it sound as if his parting from the Phoenix Suns largely was over a reluctance/refusal to play off the bench. “This move of pushing me out the door was a blindsided hit to not only me but my teammates,” Crowder said. “I will continue to prepare myself daily for battle once the call is made and continue to be a leader on the court, locker room, as well as off the court. I am thankful my teammates appreciated my leadership. I’m confused and hurt my coaches didn’t appreciate the things I brought to our team and organization.” That could create pause with what has appeared to be ongoing Heat interest, based on Caleb Martin’s play as starting power forward. Plus, at 32, Crowder will be a free agent in the offseason. A buyout after the Feb. 9 trading deadline still appears the most likely, and potential only, path to a Heat reunion.
4. Players to convert at least 22 free throws in a game without a miss. With Jimmy Butler’s 23 of 23 on Tuesday night putting the Heat forward on that list alongside James Harden, Dirk Nowitzki and Dominique Wilkins.