Miami Heat KZ Okpala was more than prepared to make his first start.
When he learned the news before Saturday's game against the Detroit Pistons, Okpala had no problem making the adjustment. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra makes sure to keep players ready for these situations.
“Spo talked to us before, even before the bubble, with COVID and everything going on," Okpala said. "We have to be ready for the unexpected. Just staying with that message in my head. I’ll work through it. It wasn’t ideal, but I’ll work through it.”
Okpala scored 16 points in 27 minutes in the Heat's 120-100 loss Saturday to the Detroit Pistons. He is set to make a second straight start when the teams meet Monday.
It is the most meaningful playing time for Okpala, a second-year player out of Stanford. Last year he was the Heat's second-round draft pick but spent of the season playing in the G League for the Sioux Falls Skyforce.
He only played in five regular season games a year ago but figures to play a bigger role this year. He's gotten more opportunity of late because of the Heat being shorthanded because of a COVID-19 outbreak.
“It was a shame he wasn’t able to play in the last two games," Spoelstra said. "Those minutes and opportunities would have been really beneficial. He is making the most of whatever opportunities he has been given. Most of it has been behind the scenes.”
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