AP Interview: Heat’s Herro in ‘very good’ place mentally

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MIAMI (AP)There were times when Tyler Herro felt overwhelmed last season.

The Miami Heat guard would see his name linked to trades all over Twitter along with questions about his personal life and how he wasn’t taking basketball seriously. He also was preparing to become a father for the first time.

Herro said it wasn’t fun. But those days, he believes, are over. His daughter is here, he said his head is clear and as Heat camp looms, the 21-year-old guard is planning for this to be his best season.

”For me, one of the biggest things was hearing people say that I partied too much, that I’m not in the gym, that I don’t love the gym,” Herro said Thursday in an interview with The Associated Press. ”If you knew me, you’d know I try to be the hardest-working dude out here. So, I think you’ll see that this year.”

The Heat surely hope that’s the case.

Herro should be one of the keys for Miami this season, with the Heat looking to return to the form that sent them to the 2020 NBA Finals in Herro’s rookie season out of Kentucky. Herro took – and passed – the Heat conditioning test Thursday, which in Miami always serves as the precursor to the season. Practice officially starts Tuesday.

His daughter, Zya Elise Herro, was born Sept. 14. The middle name is an homage to the baby’s mother, Herro’s girlfriend Katya Elise Henry. Mother and baby are doing well, and Herro said he feels like a huge weight has been lifted heading into this season.

”I just feel good,” Herro said. ”I feel like I have a reason now. Not that I didn’t before, but now I have another reason to be motivated every single day when I walk into the arena. I have to be the best I can every single day because I have a daughter now. And I’m in a very good spot right now.”

That wasn’t the case at times last season.

Most of Herro’s numbers improved a bit from Year 1 to Year 2: His field-goal percentage ticked upward from 43% to 44%, he raised his rebounding (5.0 from 4.1) and assist (3.4 from 2.2) averages and his points per game rose from 13.5 to 15.1. He became only the fifth player in Heat history to have those scoring averages in his first two NBA seasons, and the first to do so without starting most of the time.

What didn’t see improvement was his 3-point percentage, falling from 39% to 36%. And there was a 10-game stretch in March where he really struggled – shooting 32% from the field, 22% from 3-point range, averaging just 11.3 points.

But more than anything else, he simply wasn’t happy.

”Last year, it was all mental,” Herro said. ”I didn’t enjoy coming into work every day.”

That seems to have changed. A picture provides some of the proof.

He posted the picture to Instagram on Sept. 7, an image of him about to take a shot inside the Heat practice facility. He didn’t exactly look the way he did in his first two seasons; his arms were chiseled, along with his quads and calves. Even teammates couldn’t resist making comments.

”That picture, it’s not edited,” Herro said. ”I guess the angle, the light, it all looks right.”

He would be extension-eligible next summer; he’ll make $4 million this season, then about $5.7 million in 2022-23, and be in line for a much bigger payday starting in 2023-24. The size of that next contract – and where it comes from – might hinge on how this season goes.

Herro is fine with that. He knows this will be a telling season, and going into it happier than he was a year ago is a good start.

”It’s motivation for me,” Herro said. ”You see the rest of the guys that have gotten paid, and rightfully so. Everyone earns their check. I feel like this is an opportunity where I have everything in front of me and I’m willing to go get it. I know I want to be in Miami. I love it here, the Heat culture and everything that comes with it. This is a prime opportunity. They’re giving me the ball and letting me prove myself.”

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