Miami Heat guard Tyler Herro wants to be a starter next season.
The freshly minted Sixth Man of the Year award winner made that clear Tuesday during his exit interview with the media.
“Yeah, for sure,” Herro said. “In some way, I would like to start. I think it’s my fourth year, so I think I’ve earned it, and we’ll see what happens.”
Herro averaged 20.7 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists this past season while helping the Heat to the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Herro, who is in line for a big contract extension this offseason, said he is unsure whether a deal will happen before the October deadline.
“I’m not sure yet, honestly, what’s going to happen,” Herro said. “We’ll see what happens this summer. My agent [Jeff Schwartz] will talk to who he needs to talk to, and we’ll see what happens.”
After playing very well throughout the regular season, Herro struggled to find consistency in the postseason, averaging 12.8 points in the quarterfinals against the Atlanta Hawks, 14.7 points in the semifinals against the Philadelphia 76ers and just 9.3 points in the conference finals against the Boston Celtics — a series in which he continued to deal with a lingering groin injury that forced him to miss three games and be very limited in Game 7.
“The playoffs for me were kind of a weird ride,” Herro said. “Ups and downs throughout the whole thing, but I think it was a learning curve for me. I think people forget I just turned 22 and it’s still only my third playoffs, and as I made a jump this year I continue to get better and I think throughout my career there’s going to, especially early on throughout my career, there’s going to be small setbacks where I learn.
“It motivates me, it gets me better and teaches me what I need to work on to get better, and next time I’m in that situation I’ll be more prepared and better.”
Herro said the key for him will be to continue to add strength to his frame over the summer as he continues to recover from the groin injury. Herro played just seven minutes in Sunday’s 100-96 Game 7 loss.
“Going into Game 7, I was kind of on the fence whether I should play or not,” Herro said. “And I felt like I was healthy enough to play. Me and [Heat coach Erik Spoelstra] had a good conversation, and he just felt like it was all hands on deck and whether I was going to play or not just depended on how the game was going.
“But we liked the way that my snout [rehab] was progressing and we thought we’d get Game 7 and I’d be close to 100 percent for Game 1 of the Finals, so just unfortunate the way that the season ended, but I thought I’d be ready to go for Game 1 .”
The Heat dealt with a variety of injuries to key players at the end of the season, including a hamstring injury that limited veteran point guard Kyle Lowry throughout the playoffs.
“I think Kyle will come back in the next training camp in the best shape of his career,” Spoelstra said Tuesday. “That certainly is important as you get further along in your career and into your 30s, conditioning and keeping your body right. That’s your ultimate opponent is Father Time, and Kyle understands that as well as anybody. He trains hard — he really works at it behind the scenes, and he does that during the season as well.”
Lowry, 36, averaged 13.4 points in game over 63 regular-season contests. The Heat don’t have much choice other than to hope he can stay on the floor and produce more, given that he still has two years and $58 million left on the deal he signed before last season.
“You have to take into context everything,” Spoelstra said. “The missed games, injuries, it’s not all apples to apples. And then trying to ramp up as quickly as you possibly can in the middle of a series — these are not excuses, it’s just the reality. I thought Kyle was in an incredible groove about six weeks before the playoffs; I think, for his example, if we could have started the playoffs, then it would have been a perfect, perfect time for him. And then next year, all our vets, the challenge will be how they can each come back better, maybe add a couple different things to their game.”
For his part, Lowry admitted after Sunday’s game how frustrating he was to be dealing with the hamstring injury throughout the playoffs.
“I wish I would have been able to play a little bit better, at a higher level, but I didn’t,” Lowry said. “It just adds fuel. You don’t know how many more opportunities you will have to get back to this, so for me, honestly it was a waste of a year.
“I only play to win championships. It was fun, and I appreciate the guys, my teammates, and I appreciate the opportunity. But for me, it’s a waste of a year. You’re not playing for a championship — you’ re not winning a championship — it’s a wasted year.”