Heat rookie guard Norris Cole started the season by drawing comparisons to Rajon Rondo.
He was early on considered the fourth cog on a team already with three established superstars, especially after a 20-point showing against the Boston Celtics in just his second game. With only a handful of games remaining, Cole is no longer receiving similar mention.
He’s struggled most of the second half of the season, including his recent four-game slump. Cole has shot 2 of 21 from the field during the stretch.
“It’s part of this game. You’ve got to take the highs with the lows,” Cole said.
Get the FREE Miami Hoops iPhone and Android app
“You’ve got to be able to still stay even keel when you’re not playing well. My work ethic is still the same. If anything, it’s picked up even more. As long as you keep putting in the work, I know a breakthrough will come.”
Cole was the last player off the court after Saturday’s practice. He may have temporarily lost his spot in the rotation after Friday’s performance against the Memphis Grizzlies.
He went scoreless in 11 minutes, shooting 0 for 5 from the field and handing out just two assists.
He was pulled in favor of rookie guard Terrel Harris, who has seen his minutes increase as Cole’s struggles continue. Harris played 26 minutes, scoring a career-high 10 points.
Still, coach Erik Spoelstra said there are no plans of giving up on Cole.
“We’re not overreacting to this,” Spoelstra said. “That’s all expected for a younger player, especially a player that missed a normal training camp and summer program.”
Cole started fast, reaching double-figures in six of his first nine games. The decline in production has been gradual.
His last consistent stint was a four-game stretch where he averaged 12.5 points in wins against the Atlanta Hawks, Milwaukee Bucks, Indiana Pacers and Cleveland Cavaliers in mid-February. In the 23 games since, he’s scored double-figures consecutively just once.
“I’m disappointed obviously,” Cole said.
“I’m not happy that I’m not playing well. One thing you can’t lose in this league is confidence. When you lose that, it might be time to hang it up. I’m still confident. The playoffs are when it really counts. I’m trying to gear up for that.”
Poor point guard play is one of the reasons the Heat have struggled in recent weeks. Improper spacing, turnovers and lack of scoring at the position have attributed to the increase in losses.
Cole said it’s been matter of shots not falling. Cole is shooting just 38 percent from the field.
He remains confident he will snap out of the funk, saying it’s just a matter of time before things turnaround.
“It’s just some of the same shots that I was making earlier, I’m missing,” Cole said.
“Some of the same plays I was making, I’m not making them. I’m still confident. Like I said, if I keep putting in the work and staying in the gym, watching film, eventually I know I’m going to breakthrough. I’m still confident. When I get open, I’m going to knock it down.”
Spoelstra said he feels part of the problem is Cole forcing things. Not many of his shots have come within the flow of the offense.
“When you go through a period of basketball like that, he wants it so bad, you begin to press,” Spoelstra said.
“What I tried to keep stressing with him is to simplify, to be aggressive defensively, set the tone for us and offensively work on getting us in the offense and being efficient.”
Cole had several discussions with starter Mario Chalmers to make sure poise never became a problem. Chalmers has experienced peaks and valleys during the past two seasons, but has always been confident in his ability.
“That’s what [Chalmers] told me,” Cole said.
“He said, ‘stay aggressive, stay attacking, when I’m open, knock it down. On defense, stay aggressive. If one part of your game is not working you have to use other parts of your game.’ “