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There was no bigger story, literally and figuratively, for the Miami Heat during 2021 summer league than Omer Yurtseven. Before the summer was over, there already was a guaranteed contract.
There was no bigger story for the Heat last December, amid the injury absence of starting center Bam Adebayo, than Yurtseven. During one stretch, he set a franchise rookie record with double-figure rebounds in 14 consecutive games. Included in that run were four consecutive games with at least 16 rebounds and four consecutive double-doubles.
Then Adebayo returned. And then it all ground to a halt, with minimal minutes for Yurtseven over the second half of the season, practically none in the playoffs.
Such can be the case with NBA rookie initiations, especially for undrafted players. Nonetheless, the runway was there.
And then, in July, the Heat reupped with veteran big man Dewayne Dedmon for $4.7 million this season, almost three times what Yurtseven will earn.
So how did Yurtseven process it all?
As up lifting.
No, not necessarily uplifting, but as staying up lifting weights to all hours in the offseason, body fat down to 6 1/2 percent with a goal of further sculpting.
“I have to get that down even lower,” he told the Sun Sentinel, with the Heat opening training camp Tuesday at the Baha Mar resort. “And once I get it down, then I start having the agility aspect. But I’ve been working on agility all summer, as well. Like lateral agility. Muscle is not just for lifting. Muscles are for running faster, and all those things add up. And that’s the focus, agility.”
In what the Heat profess as a meritocracy, Yurtseven’s meteoric rise was matched only by the suddenness of his disappearance from the rotation.
On one hand, there is appreciation for the opportunity, one not given when he went undrafted out of Georgetown in 2020, spending his first pro season with the Oklahoma City Thunder’s G League affiliate, after previous time in Turkish League.
On the other hand, there also is somewhat of a desire to speak up, make a claim for what the statistics say should be greater opportunity.
“I’m not really pushing it,” Yurtseven said, with that not an option at the moment, with coach Erik Spoelstra away from the team following the Monday birth of his daughter. “It’s more like I’m saying I have to show Coach and kind of earn it. Nothing is given. You’ve got to earn it here. And that’s my perspective and kind of attitude towards it.
“Because I can’t say anything. It’s all about what I’m given. So it’s all about that perspective to keep showing –— every time you’re out there, every opportunity and second given, you’ve got to show it. And that’s all I can control.”
And if more patience is required, so be it, with an opening potentially to open at midseason, when Dedmon becomes trade eligible.
“It’s all about chipping away at it,” Yurtseven, 24, said. “And even last year, when I didn’t play, I improved. In the eight months, I put on 12 pounds of muscle, and that’s so hard, with the trials of the season. It’s hard to just stay in the gym and be in the weight room and you come back in at 3 a.m. and hit the weight room at 9 a.m. And those sacrifices, they add up. And they have a return.
“And that’s what I’m trying to stay confident about, my work. Because that’s what got me here.”
The commitment for Yurtseven was such that he bypassed playing for Turkey’s national team for World Cup qualifying and during EuroBasket, after previously working with the national team and being injured in a June game that took him out of the Heat’s summer league.
“This is a summer that I needed to lock in and be ready,” he said. “And that’s what I did.”
Including loading up from the 3-point line, to show he can play in tandem with Adebayo, not as an either/or option.
“I’d be at a minimum 300 makes a day, and that’s over 2 1/2 workouts,” he said of his offseason sessions. “And percentage-wise, about 80 percent. On average about 80 percent.”
This is when he hopes the payoff arrives.
“Camp is going to be a way for me to put everything together that I worked on in the summer and show what I can do,” he said.