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Heat's Nikola Jovic drops eye-opening take on 2023-24 role

Jovic has started the last two games for Miami heading into the All-Star break.

Miami Heat star Nikola Jovic in front of the Kaseya Center,

When it comes to Miami Heat star Nikola Jovic, it has been a tumultuous 2023-24 season to say the least as the team is about to play their first game off the All-Star break Friday. The 20-year old player still has a hopeful long career ahead of him as the Heat are keeping a slow and steady pace with him.

Playing time has been sporadic for the Serbian-born prospect as he has seen 14 starts this season, but before the few he had recently, he was kept out of six of the last seven games. Talking about how much he plays, Jovic was candid to Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel about his situation with Miami this season.

“The wild thing is,” Jovic said. “Either I start or I don’t play. It’s wild.”

In a very simple sense, it is accurate as when the Heat are fully healthy, Jovic's role is small compared to when there is a couple people out and he is inserted into the starting lineup. Either way, because still of how raw of a player he is and his age, this is all a learning experience for the young player.

When talking about his possible trajectory, “slow and steady wins the race” as it will take time for him. Recently though, he's had some solid performances including Miami's huge 24-point win over the Milwaukee Bucks where he scored a career-high 24 points and collected seven rebounds.

Jovic confident in working to get better for the Heat

Miami Heat star Nikola Jovic in front of the city's skyline.

Jovic would also start the next game against the Philadelphia 76ers as well where the Heat won. While the first quote can be taken as a frustrated player, it is anything but that for him as he said he loves the process.

“I love it,” Jovic said. “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.”

“I feel like I’m working a lot, especially the last month, last two or three months,” Jovic continued. “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.”

What is also important is that Jovic himself has seen the improvement of his game since he was drafted by the Heat with the 27th overall pick in 2022. He credits the starting opportunities received during the season as what specifically has helped him.

“I learned that I for sure got a lot better than I was before,”Jovic said via The Sun Sentinel. “I learned that I’m for sure able to play and I’m ready to play.”

“We’re contenders and it can be hard to play in an organization where all they do is want to win,” Jovic continued. “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.”

Erik Spoelstra complimentary of Jovic

Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra spoke about Jovic's ability with the Heat after the aforementioned win over the Bucks. More importantly, he expressed that Jovic has shown a “maturity and growth from last year to this year.”

“Niko was very good; he generates more inertia for our team in transition,” Erik Spoelstra said which prompted him to talk about his dedication to the Heat. “He’s been very dedicated. I see a maturity and growth from last year to this year,… not getting discouraged. He continued to work, including after the Boston game. He went into the gym after the game and got more work in with the coaches. When guys start to do that, you start to see things change.”

“[They] were really important games for us where he played well and helped the unit function at a high level, and he handled it well when everyone got back to being healthy and waiting for his opportunity again. He stayed ready,” Spoelstra continued about Jovic's starts. “Attention to detail, the discipline, understanding the schematics, the multiple efforts. He’s been making progress for a couple of years. It’s not improvement that’s been linear. There have been ups and downs,… going to [the Heat’s G League team in] Sioux Falls, having his stints with us.”

It remain to be seen how Jovic will be involved, especially once players like Jimmy Butler, Terry Rozier, and Josh Richardson come back to the lineup. In any sense the Heat are 30-25 which puts them seventh in the Eastern Conference as their next game is Friday, Feb. 23 against the New Orleans Pelicans.