Heat sending Nikola Jovic to G League for ‘a few games.’ Jovic: ‘I just want to play’


Forward Nikola Jovic hasn’t played much with the Miami Heat so far this season, so he’s being sent to the G League.

“He needs to play,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Saturday of the decision to send Jovic to the organization’s G League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce. “That’s the most important thing.”

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With the Heat in Chicago for two games against the Bulls on Saturday and Monday, Jovic was at Saturday’s morning shootaround at United Center before making the short trip to join the Skyforce in Oshkosh, Wis. The Skyforce are on the road to take on the Wisconsin Herd on Sunday and Tuesday before facing the Windy City Bulls on Wednesday in the Chicago area.

Meanwhile, the Heat is on a five-game trip that begins with the two games in Chicago, continues against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday and ends in New York against the New York Knicks on Friday and Brooklyn Nets on Nov. 25.

“I would like to get him a few games,” Spoelstra said of the G League plan for Jovic. “This will be a shorter stint. We’ll evaluate and go from there.”

Jovic, who was drafted by the Heat with the 27th overall pick last year, has opened his second NBA season out of the Heat’s rotation. He has played in just two games this season, already receiving eight DNP-CDs (did not play, coach’s decision) while also missing time due to an illness in the first three-plus weeks of the schedule.

Jovic’s intriguing combination of size and skill as a 6-foot-10 forward who can be used as a ball-handler, facilitator and outside shooter has flashed on the offensive end even in his limited minutes this season. But his defense continues to be a work in progress and one of the biggest reasons that he hasn’t yet earned a consistent role in the Heat’s rotation.

“I just want to play. That’s it,” Jovic, 20, said. “I just want to get some playing time, stay in a rhythm, you never know what’s going to happen [with the Heat]. Maybe they’ll need more help from me, you never know. I just want to improve and these guys do a great job at it. Even being in the G League, I feel like it’s going to be great for me.”

Jovic played in just 15 NBA games last season as a rookie, as he was sidelined by a back injury for most of the year.

But Jovic is coming off a busy offseason that included weeks of summer league action with the Heat before taking part in weeks of competitive games in the FIBA Basketball World Cup with the Serbian national team.

“A couple of games,” Jovic said when asked how long he expects his G League stint to be. “I feel like probably while they’re on the road, I’ll be in the G League. And when they’re in Miami, I’ll be with the team and be a part of the team.”

In addition to Jovic joining the Skyforce, the Heat also sent two-way contract forward Cole Swider to the G League on Saturday. Jovic and Swider join Heat two-way contract forward Jamal Cain with the Skyforce, as Cain was moved to the G League on Monday.

The Heat’s other two-way contract player, guard R.J. Hampton, remains in Miami after spraining his knee. The team has labeled Hampton as day-to-day.