Kendrick Nunn Getting Back To Himself

Kendrick Nunn
Photo Credit: Scott Audette
by Joe Beguiristain
HEAT.com

There’s 8:30 left in the fourth quarter of the HEAT’s battle with the Raptors on Wednesday.

Kendrick Nunn uses a pin down screen from Bam Adebayo and receives the ball from Andre Iguodala on the left wing. As Terence Davis approaches and Nunn dribbles to his right, Bam Adebayo sets another screen, which forces OG Anunoby to switch and pick up the HEAT guard.

Now near the top of the key, Nunn takes another dribble and looks to attack the basket, but Anunoby deflects the ball a couple of times, finally gathers it just past midcourt and seems to have a layup on the break.

Except that he doesn’t.

Nunn stays right with Anunoby and uses his strength to force a jump ball before the 23-year-old Raptor could attempt a shot at the rim.

“Shouldn’t have been a turnover, but I wanted to get it back so bad, I had to force that jump ball,” Nunn recalled. “I wasn’t going to let him get an easy, clean basket after I turned it over. That’s always my mentality after a turnover. I’m getting back, whether it’s a chasedown block or trying to get that stop.”

In a way, that play was a microcosm of Nunn’s return to the rotation.

Despite all the outside noise surrounding Miami’s up-and-down start, the 25-year-old out of Chicago has strung together two solid performances in a row to help the HEAT earn their first winning streak of the season. After tallying 18 points against the Pistons on MLK Day, Nunn continued his scoring barrage in Tampa with a game and season-high 28 points on 9-of-12 shooting from the field, including 4-of-6 from deep, and a perfect 6-of-6 from the charity stripe.

Erik Spoelstra lauded Nunn for everything he’s done to keep himself ready.

“K. Nunn has incredible competitive character. He really does. He has a grit and a perseverance to him that not only do you have confidence that he’ll be able to respond with this kind of adversity, but you respect him so much that you’re, like, really rooting for him, and you really want it of him,” Spoelstra said. “It was great just to see all the work that nobody else does see behind the scenes. He just grinds and works at it every day, and then we really needed it [Wednesday]. We needed playmaking. We needed scoring.”

And while Nunn did score in a variety of different ways against Toronto, he also set up his teammates with some great feeds out of the pick-and-roll. In fact, he dished out five assists before the night was done.

Nunn works on those quarterback reads every day and understands just how important those are for both his team and his personal development.

“If we had a couple bad possessions on the offensive end, I’m not going to come down and chuck a three,” Nunn said. “I’m going to get something good and play make for others, so that’s something that I’ve built just with experience. And going into my second year, I’ll definitely get better with that.”

Nunn’s emergence these past two games doesn’t guarantee anything down the road, but there’s something to be said about good karma. When Nunn wasn’t playing a whole lot, he still enjoyed his teammates’ success, whether that be Adebayo or Duncan Robinson.

Adebayo hasn’t forgotten that.

“We always are happy for our brother. We enjoy each other’s success. [There were] times where K. Nunn wasn’t playing, and he was enjoying my success, Duncan’s success,” Adebayo said. “…it’s his turn now, so we’re just going to enjoy his success and just keep feeding off of that…he’s a spark for us. It’s good to see him out there and getting back to himself.”

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