With very few roster spots available, the Heat will search for fresh young talent worth developing when it begins summer league play Sunday against Utah in Orlando (1 p.m., NBA TV). And among the 23 players set to play for the Heat in either Orlando or Las Vegas or both, forward James Ennis and point guard Myck Kabongo bear careful monitoring, with each possessing an appealing skill set.
Kabongo, who went undrafted, was considered a possible first-round pick out of Texas before last season's 23-game NCAA suspension.
Ennis, selected 50th by Atlanta and traded to the Heat on draft night, offers the type of athleticism and position versatility that the Heat likes.
“When we watched James on film, he jumped off the screen with his athleticism and length,” coach Erik Spoelstra said Saturday. “He’s long, has a defensive background. He’s got very good potential in terms of his three-point shooting, especially from the corners. These things all need to be developed. You never know when you get into the second round. You’re just trying to find somebody that fits your philosophy.”
Ennis, 6-7, averaged 16.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.3 blocks at Long Beach State last season but struggled with his floor game (99 turnovers, 70 assists). He said he’s best suited to play small forward but also can play shooting guard.
When Spoelstra called him at 8 in the morning the day after the draft, “I was surprised. I didn’t recognize his voice. He said, ‘Congratulations and give it your all.’”
Ennis, who said he had no idea the Heat was interested in him before the draft, said he needs to “work on ball-handling and getting my shot off faster.”
Center Jarvis Varnado, the only Heat veteran participating in summer league, said Ennis “is going to be a good player. Coach likes the long, wiry guys. He defends, he’s a slasher, gets into the lane.”
Meanwhile, Spoelstra said the 6-1 Kabongo “has big upside. Our organization has a history of uncovering guys that needed the right fit.”
He piqued the interest of scouts with a dynamic freshman season at Texas (9.6 points, 5.2 assists, 1.3 steals).
But last fall, he began his sophomore season on suspension after the NCAA ruled he accepted personal training instruction from Jerry Powell, a trainer for Rich Paul, who represents LeBron James and now Kabongo, among others.
The NCAA also punished Kabongo for accepting airfare from Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson to attend that workout and also said Kabongo provided “false and misleading information” during two interviews with university officials. Kabongo was forced to repay the airfare.
“It was a minor setback,” Kabongo said Saturday. “The whole thing was me just trying to be a better player. It was never to break any rules.”
He returned for the final 11 games, averaging 14.6 points, 5.5 assists and 2.2 steals and shooting 41.8 percent before deciding to turn pro.
He said not being drafted was “a blessing in disguise. For me to be here in a great organization, they do everything in a first class way. I’m happy to be around something like that.”
Kabongo, a skilled defender who is considered especially effective off the dribble, said he has a “great basketball IQ, can pass pretty well. I can affect the game at both ends of the court, and I’m a leader. I know I’m not a polished player. I’m going to get there one day.”
He said he has known James since high school and “we’ve been close ever since. He’s always been there for me.”
LeBron’s only message to his friend after going undrafted? “To work hard wherever you go.”
### Spoelstra said Udonis Haslem will undergo knee surgery on his torn meniscus in the next two weeks and likely will be available for the start of training camp. Haslem played with the injury since February, and Spoelstra said he also played through shoulder, hip and ankle problems.
“The thing about U.D. is he will never, ever talk about it,” Spoelstra said. “It shows you his level of toughness and commitment.”
### The Heat, still awaiting a decision from free agent center Chris Andersen, will have a seven-day window to use the one-time amnesty provision beginning July 11. If it’s used, the likely candidates would be Mike Miller, due $12.8 million over the next two seasons, or Joel Anthony, due $7.6 million over the next two.
The Heat would be required to pay an amnestied player’s salary, but it would not count against Miami’s cap or luxury tax obligations. If the Heat decides to part ways with Miller or Anthony, a better scenario financially would be finding a team willing to absorb either player’s contract in a trade.
### Center Justin Hamilton, the Heat’s 2012 second-round pick, is doing light shooting with the team but isn’t playing in the summer leagues because of a hamstring injury.
### Check back later for the Sunday buzz with Canes, Dolphins, Marlins and Heat.