MIAMI — It is the duality of the NBA, the possibility of your team being boosted by the trade acquisition of a Kevin Durant or a Donovan Mitchell, but also the possibility that you could be among the players dealt away.
So as the league stands in somewhat of a waiting game, Miami Heat guard Max Strus addressed the uncertainty Tuesday during a visit to the team’s youth camp at FTX Arena.
“I try not to get into it,” Strus said after speaking to his attentive audience and posing for pictures for those at the camp run by former Heat broadcaster Tony Fiorentino. “I try not to get too into it. Obviously you see it, and people ask you about it. But I’ll wait until it happens. If something happens, it happens. If something happens, it happens.
“But, yeah, how can you not want a guy like Kevin Durant? He’s a once-in-a-generation type player and great player in the game and one of the best of all time. I’m excited to see what happens and I hope the best for him and the best for our team. That’s all that really matters.”
To some, it has been a stagnant offseason for the Heat, or even one that has them at a deficit, with starting power forward PJ Tucker lost to the Philadelphia 76ers and no outside free agents added by the team.
But to Strus, there remains a core that stood within one game of the NBA Finals.
“We’re bringing back a good majority of the people we had on our team, so I think people get used to selling us short,” he said. “We hear that every summer. And we use it as momentum. So I’m excited for this group and to get it together with the guys in training camp and see what we have.
“And I think returning these guys and what we got back, I think we’ll be alright.”
Strus closed last season as a starter, replacing Duncan Robinson. But since season’s end, Tyler Herro has spoken of transitioning from his sixth-man role to the opening lineup, with that a designation that also figures to interest Victor Oladipo, who re-signed in free agency.
Strus, who went undrafted out of DePaul in 2019, said he has learned to take nothing for granted.
“No, you can’t do that,” he said. “Because the minute you settle and live in that moment, you’ll get passed up on. So every day you’ve got to earn that respect and earn that position. That doesn’t come easily in the NBA.
“So I understand that and I’m still working hard to keep proving myself and to be a long-time starter in the NBA.”
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Two years ago in July, Strus, 26, was out of the league and rehabilitating from knee surgery as the Heat were preparing to resume what would be a run to the NBA Finals.
Last year at this time, Strus had yet to receive a standard NBA contract, living amid the uncertainty of a Heat two-way deal.
Now Strus stands as a trusted roster component, an intriguing trade chip, with a potential bite at the lucrative free-agent market next summer.
“It’s been crazy, when you think about it like that,” he said. “But I try not to. I kind of just try to live in the moment and just take each milestone, each step one day at a time. So I try to enjoy each step of the way and just be happy for every moment and celebrate each success I have.”
All the while while supporting and being supported. Two weeks ago, Strus was at the NBA Las Vegas Summer League seated alongside teammates Caleb Martin, Gabe Vincent and Herro, supporting the Heat’s prospects. Later that week, he was joined by Vincent and Heat captain Udonis Haslem at his Chicago-area youth camp.
“UD texts me all the time that he wanted to come to my camp and he wanted to show support,” Strus said. “So I think we all learn from him and really learn what it means to be a true professional and great teammate. So to have him, it’s huge for us in our locker room.
“That’s just how we all are. We all love each other and celebrate each other’s successes and want to be around each other. And you can’t ask for anything more in a team like that.”