It’s not often a person as large as 6-foot-11, 240-pound Cody Zeller can be lost in the proverbial shadows, but that’s what has happened to the veteran center lately.
Zeller, a former lottery pick by Charlotte, was waived twice in 2022 -- by Portland and by Utah. But he was claimed by Miami last month, and he has given the Heat a lift off the bench.
Playing as a reserve is expected to be his role again Monday night when the Heat host the Atlanta Hawks for the second straight game.
On Saturday night, Zeller had a season-high 13 points in 12 minutes as Miami beat Atlanta, 117-109.
“I just want to bring energy when I’m on the court,” said Zeller, who was out of basketball this season until six games ago when he signed with Miami. “I felt a little rusty through my few games, but (on Saturday), I settled in.”
Zeller is part of a current Heat reserve unit that also includes Caleb Martin, Victor Oladipo and Max Strus.
“Cody is a steady, experienced, winning player,” Heat coach Eric Spoelstra said.
Although he was the NBA’s fourth overall pick in 2013, Zeller, 30, hasn’t started a game since the 2020-21 season. His job now is to support Miami’s stars -- Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro.
Adebayo had a game-high 30 points against Atlanta on Saturday. He also added 11 rebounds and five assists.
Also on Saturday, Herro scored 20 points, and Butler added 15 points, 11 rebounds and a team-high seven assists.
New Heat power forward Kevin Love, who has played six games since being acquired by Miami, has been solid. However, he has scored in double figures just once for Miami.
Overall, the Heat have won two of three games from Atlanta so far this season.
Meanwhile, Atlanta has scored 100 or more points in 39 consecutive games.
Even so, the Hawks have struggled with inconsistency.
For example, Dejounte Murray scored a career-high 41 points on 17-for-22 shooting against Portland on Friday. However, on Saturday against Miami, he was held to 10 points on 3-for-14 shooting. He made all five of his 3-pointers against Portland, and he missed all five of his shots from distance versus Miami.
Hawks superstar Trae Young is another example of inconsistency. He was held to a season-low eight points on 2-for-13 shooting against Miami on Saturday. That’s way below his season scoring average of 26.7.
In his previous 15 games against Miami, Young averaged 22.1 points and 8.3 assists.
On the positive side, the Hawks got 22 points on Saturday from Saddiq Bey. It was his highest-scoring game since the Hawks acquired him on Feb. 9.
“I’m just feeling the game,” Bey said. “I’m feeling the opportunities to be aggressive. I’m just trying to bring a spark to the team.”
As for the sidelines, the Hawks are 2-2 since bringing in Quin Snyder as coach.
“He’s a high-IQ guy who makes his voice heard at the right time,” Murray said. “I feel like he will get us going in the right direction. He’s here to win. We’re here to win together.”
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