Kevin Love’s ‘vice grips’ helping Heat get a handle on the boards

MIAMI — It must be the mitts. Or, as Erik Spoelstra says, the “vice grips.”

Because unlike others the Miami Heat have charged with rebounding over the years, once Kevin Love gets the ball in his hands, it only is going where he wants it to go.

That, Spoelstra said, is among the facets that have made the 35-year-old former All-Star such a unique asset to his rotation.

“He’s a glass eater,” Spoelstra said, with the Heat completing a two-game set against the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night at Kaseya Center. “He can rebound as well as anybody. When there’s a bunch of bodies in the paint, he has vice grips, really underrated with his strength and his ability to rebound in traffic.”

Because Love outlets with two hands, the natural inclination is to rebound firmly with two hands. That, in turn, reduces the possibilities of rebounds being stripped, as has been an issue with previous Heat big men.

From there, it often means Love going deep.

“Only the super-skilled players with vision and timing can make those plays,” Spoelstra said, “and Kevin is one of those guys.”

That typically has Jimmy Butler running a post pattern.

“I know that that ball is going to find its way to me some way or another when K-Love is in the game,” Butler said of the outlet passes. “And it’s going to be in transition the majority of the time. I love to play like that. I think I’m a footballer, anyways, whether it’ll be like soccer and or American football.

“So he’s got a lot of trust in me; Spo does, as well. You throw the ball up in the air, it’s my job to go get it. No matter how high or how hard you throw the ball, it’s my job to go up there and catch it.”

Baby Butler

The more Heat first-round pick Jaime Jaquez Jr. plays, the more he has been drawing playing-style comparisons to Butler.

“Without a doubt,” Butler said of the 22-year-old drafted in June out of UCLA. “It’s good to see and it’s cool, ’cause he’s super young. I picked that type of stuff up when I was 28 or 29. So he has so much room to get better and he’s so confident, always working on his game, and he wants to make the right play every time.

“He knows what it takes to win. And he’s done it in college. I’m so happy for him, happy for his success.”

Forward Caleb Martin seconded the comparison.

“I think people underestimate how big of a body he is,” he said of Jaquez, who is listed at 6-foot-6, 230 pounds, compared to Butler’s 6-7, 230. “He can post-up, he got the mid-range, he’s got off-the-dribble. He’s got a little bit of everything.

“It kind of simulates Jimmy’s game to a degree, too. And the fact that he’s a rookie and he’s a young guy still learning is great for us. He’s shown a lot of versatility, a lot of great things already.”

Summer school?

With Mexico having qualified for next summer’s Paris Olympics, Jaquez was asked if there was a chance he would return to the Mexican national team.

Jaquez, whose father’s family is from Mexico, played for Mexico in the 2019 Pan American Games prior to matriculating to UCLA.

“I don’t know yet,” he said. “That’s something that I’m going to have to look at during the future, talk with me and my team. But it’s something I’m looking forward to do eventually in the future.”

The Heat typically have encouraged their players to participate in international offseason competitions.