Nikola Jovic opens up on current role with Heat: ‘I want to play.’

Nikola Jovic
(Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports)

The Miami Heat’s rotations–like most leaguewide, for one reason or another–are always fluid throughout an 82-game season.

In the Heat’s instance, rather, there’s been a lack of continuity. Jimmy Butler has missed 18 games this season, 13 due to injury; Tyler Herro missed six weeks with a Grade 2 ankle sprain while Bam Adebayo, who was named to his third All-Star team, has missed 10. Even a few of its top role players–Caleb Martin, Haywood Highsmith and Josh Richardson–have missed a combined 42 games due to injury, too, which hasn’t helped them find their rhythm both individually and collectively with one another.

With that comes the “Next Man Up” mentality; injuries and absences open the runway for other players to produce, such as 20-year-old wing second-year wing Nikola Jovic. While he’s noticed improvement in his own game, he recently had a brutally honest assessment of his current role, even though he eventually believes he’ll receive more of an opportunity.

“Either I start or I don’t play,” he said last week, according to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “It’s wild.

“I get to learn and I need to be ready when I get a chance. I’m working hard like I always do. I feel like everybody sees the improvement … I mean I want to play. Playing is the most important thing. But I feel like as long as they believe in me and I believe in them, it’s going to work out.”

Jovic has upped his productivity from his rookie season, when he appeared in just 15 games in part due to a back injury that kept him out the majority of the season. He’s averaging 6.0 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists, shooting 43.0 percent from the floor and 45.5 percent from 3-point range on 2.5 3-point attempts per game.

Nearly 83.5 percent of Jovic’s minutes (304 of 364) have come in the games he starts, however. In his eight contests off the bench, he’s logged only 10-plus minutes twice (both 15-plus minutes)–the most being 20 minutes in the Heat’s 12-point win over Golden State on Dec. 28. In all but two of his 14 starts, he’s reached the 15-minute barometer.

Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra has slowly, but surely added more to Jovic’s plate with him initiating offense and allowing him to switch in space defensively, where he’s held up (for the most part) in the limited reps he’s had. He’s improved as a catch-and-shoot shooter–as evident by his 24-point, five-3-pointer effort against Milwaukee last week–and as a defender.

Even if he’s not in the initial nine- to 10-man rotation when everyone’s healthy, the work ethic is clearly there for Jovic, who’s been open about wanting to prove himself.

“I feel like I’m working a lot, especially the last month, last two or three months,” Jovic said. “Before every shootaround, before every practice, I’m there working out … There’s no off days for me. When they have an off day, it’s an on day for me.

“I always want to feel like I’m putting something into practice. My job is to improve and show everybody I can play.”

Terry Rozier and Richardson are both out with respective injuries (knee for Rozier, shoulder for Terry) while Jimmy Butler’s dealing with a death in his family, which is why he missed the final two games before the All-Star break. The Heat recently signed Delon Wright to mitigate the loss of its backcourt, though Jovic could play a role in helping initiate offense if Spoelstra elects to go that route.

“I learned that I’m for sure able to play and I’m ready to play,” Jovic said. “We’re contenders and it can be hard to play in an organization where all they do is want to win.

“But that’s all I want to do is win. Like I said, at one point there’ll be more chances, and at one point I feel like I’ll be able to be constantly in the rotation.”


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Heck yeah Jovic. I wanted to do more when I was 20-years old also. Now I’m in my 40’s and happily doing less.

Anyway, I think Jovic has given us exactly what we would want, a high ceiling young big man that can rebound, pass, shoot the three, and even run the fastbreak. That dude can ball.

The hard part is doing it every night, 4 nights a week, against grown men. Then, after six months of that, do it even better in the playoffs. If he were on the Blazers or Wizards, everyone would love him. But the Heat are trying to win Championships, and so it will take a few years for him to grow into his role.


If he can routinely do half of what he did to Milwaukee, he will be in the rotation, as long as he works hard and continues to improve defensively. I think he will always work hard, which is why he has a chance. Defensive adjustments will be his biggest challenge as he probably still needs to get stronger.


If he can continue to show that, he will definitely be in the rotation probably starting because it will be either him or Martin at starting pf, especially when we get everyone back. I think we will see him play in at least 25 more games, idk about the playoffs though. Like you said he needs to get better defensively and he will definitely get stronger next year, he’s already like 239. Imagine him at 250 and maybe he’ll grow another inch or 2 because he still only 20. Future will definitely become more bright if he turns into baby joker with more speed.


Patience, patience and patience, young man Jovic. Jokic (Nuggets) came off the bench in his first two years. In his 2nd year 2016, he became a starter. Before then he practiced hard and watched films. When he finally came off as a starter, there was no looking back. Jovic continue fine tuning your skills, when you are ready as a starter, it will be undeniable. The fastest way to get traded and for cheap, is to generate those soft rumbles. Young man be patient.


Like everything else of value in life, you must work for it…you must earn it. It is no different for Jovic. He’s young, he’s impatient and he’s inconsistent. He has tons of potential and will be a rotation player and possibly a starter in the not-to-distant future. Unfortunately, his inconsistency and defensive inexperience are the two things that will keep him from being part of the rotation, for now. If he were playing on a lottery team such as Portland, Washington, Charlotte, San Antonio, etc., he would no doubt be getting much more playing time. Not in Miami. Not now. Meanwhile, he has to keep working on his game, take advantage of any opportunities he receives to play and not get discouraged. After all, he is only 20 and has his whole career ahead of him. His time will come!!!



He could be a starter in a bad team and a rotation player in good team, but he will probably become a better player in Miami sitting at the bench most of the time and start from time to time. Spo knows what he is doing.

He has clearly more potential like Highsmith or Martin, but they are still better or more proven players like him at the moment. But this will change soon.

I expect him to be a starter next year.


Jovic has talent no doubt. very very young. just dont be bored and get unhappy when ur in the bench coz thats part of ur training, kid. Heat org seems like they’re prepping you as part of its future together with Bam, Tyler, JJJ. Its already hard to juggle and/or work its way out of all the injuries but this team is built for those kinds of challenges unlike regular season top teams when their star player goes down they look so vulnerable. keep working hard and be patient. Go Heat! no games yet? lol

Reality Czech

Correct. Patience this young Jedi must embrace. Strong is the force in him. (As Yoda would say)


Master RC (bow) 😁😆

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