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Miami Heat

Heat Notes: Dragic, Injuries, Richardson

Things in Miami have changed significantly since Goran Dragic was acquired at the 2015 trade deadline, with Dwyane Wade no longer in the picture and Chris Bosh seemingly on his way out as well. The Heat are in a retooling phase, and the injury woes plaguing the team this season have made it difficult for the new-look roster to gel. Still, Dragic tells Joel Brigham of Basketball Insiders that he remains optimistic about the club’s future.

“This is a young team,” Dragic said. “We have a lot of newer faces than last year, and we just need to find that good chemistry that we had in the preseason. But, it’s kind of hard because with all those injuries, players are out, [so] it’s always a different starting lineup or different players on the floor. Hopefully, that won’t happen in the future.”

Here’s more from Dragic, along with a couple more Heat notes:

  • Dragic on Wade’s decision to leave the Heat for the Bulls this past summer: “I was in shock because he was there 13 years. I would never imagine he was going to go somewhere else because, the Miami Heat, everyone knows that was D-Wade’s team. But I understand, this is a part of the business. When that happened, I was talking with him and I wished him all the best in Chicago. He’s a good friend of mine, and it is what it is. We’re all professionals, so we need to do our jobs and I had to embrace a new, bigger role, but I’m fine with that.”
  • The Heat had a busy offseason, having been active in free agency, which means next Thursday is a big day for the team, writes Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel. As of that day, December 15, nearly all the players the team signed in the summer will become trade-eligible. Of course, as Winderman notes, Pat Riley has never made a trade in December since taking over as Heat president, so we shouldn’t expect the team to make a move right away — particularly since some potential trade chips are injured at the moment.
  • Speaking of injured players, Winderman provides an update on Josh Richardson‘s status in a separate piece for The Sun Sentinel.

John Wall Deal Realistic?

Ongoing chemistry issues in Washington could make John Wall a trade candidate, speculates Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel. In a question-and-answer column, the Heat beat writer addresses a reader’s proposal of Wall and Otto Porter for Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow. Winderman cautions that the Wizards might put a greater value on Porter than Winslow, and notes that Miami doesn’t have many draft picks to offer because it still owes two to Phoenix in the deal to acquire Dragic. Even if that trade doesn’t happen, Winderman states that Wall seems unhappy in Washington even after a coaching change that replaced Randy Wittman with Scott Brooks. Wall blasted his teammates for a lack of effort Tuesday after he scored 52 points but the team still lost to Orlando.

Williams Praises Spoelstra

  • Derrick Williams said he never heard from Jackson during free agency this past summer and Hornacek didn’t reach out to him either, Marc Berman of The New York Post writes. Williams said he expected to at least get an offer from the Knicks, but he’s happy with his decision to sign with the Heat“I love my time in New York,” Williams said. “Being one of the fan favorites, leaving a place where I felt I could keep getting better, keep growing. But ultimately I feel it was the right decision. It might not seem that way right now. But I’m getting better each day. Even though I may not be on the court right now, this is for the second half of the season.”
  • Williams said that Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is “by far” the best coach he’s ever had, Berman adds in the same piece. “Really having a coach to teach me the right ways to play defense,” Williams exclaimed. “He really gets you in a defensive mode, with offense second. That’s what I needed in my career.”

Latest On Chris Bosh

Chris Bosh is more likely to attempt a comeback next season than he is this year, a source tells Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Bosh has not played at all this season because of blood clot issues and the Heat are apparently not expecting him to play for the team again.

“We are not working toward his return. We feel that, based on the last exam, that his Heat career is probably over, ” team president Pat Riley said back in September.

The Heat are expected to petition for a medical exclusion once they are eligible to do so on February 9, the one-year anniversary of Bosh’s last game. If granted, the team would waive Bosh and the exclusion would wipe the final two seasons of his contract off the team’s salary cap. However, if Bosh makes a comeback and plays more than 24 games over the course of his career, his salary would go back onto Miami’s books.

If Bosh intends to make a comeback next season rather than this year, Miami could ostensibly waive him, receive the exclusion and use the cap space to absorb salary in a trade before the February 23 deadline. Trading for a high priced star would be feasible in this scenario, though Jackson doubts that Miami could make a substantial move, as there is no available perimeter player whom would be considered an ideal fit.

Heat Notes: Johnson, Whiteside, Winslow

James Johnson is thriving in a reserve role with the Heat, the veteran’s fifth team in eight years, after he chose Miami in free agency following an interesting sales pitch, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel relays. Erik Spoelstra, Winderman writes, told Johnson, 29, to improve his shape and diet and in return the Heat would be afford him an opportunity to make the most out of his talents. Johnson, known as a solid perimeter defender, is averaging 9.9 points per game, which would be a career-high over the course of a single season.

Here is more out of Miami:

  • Hassan Whiteside likes the idea that Pat Riley envisions the offense going through him in a year or two, but he needs to stop turning the ball over as much as has for that to work,” Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes.
  • Spoelstra will have a decision or two on his hands regarding the starting lineup and minutes when Justise Winslow makes his imminent return, Jackson writes in a seperate story. The coach could opt to have Winslow return to small forward with Josh McRoberts or he can shift Winslow to power forward, Jackson notes. Jackson also floats the idea that Winslow could come off the bench.

Heat Notes: Whiteside, McRoberts, Winslow, Johnson

The Trail Blazers were Hassan Whiteside‘s second choice in free agency, writes Erik Garcia Gunderson in The Miami Herald. Portland reportedly pursued Whiteside, but didn’t get to meet with him before he re-signed with Miami. The center’s first meeting was with Heat president Pat Riley at midnight July 1st, and the only other team he talked with before making a decision was the Mavericks. “Portland was my second option,” Whiteside said before Saturday’s game with the Blazers. “I would have came here.” The Blazers, who used their cap space to add Evan Turner and Festus Ezeli and to re-sign their own free agents, currently have the worst defensive rating in the league.

There’s more news from Miami:

  • Josh McRoberts may have claimed the Heat’s starting power forward role with his play of late, contends Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel. McRoberts has scored in double figures in his last two games and is making a strong push to stay in the starting lineup. That will leave coach Erik Spoelstra with a difficult decision when Justise Winslow is healthy enough to return, Winderman notes, with Winslow possibly being used as a versatile sixth man who can fill in at several positions.
  • The Heat may trade some of their free agent additions for draft picks if they slip out of contention, Winderman writes in the same column. James Johnson, Dion Waiters and Wayne Ellington will all be eligible for deals starting December 15th. Because of injures and the fact that the playoffs are still a possibility after a slow start, Winderman doesn’t expect any of the three to be moved right away.
  • Johnson’s scoring has been a pleasant surprise for Miami, notes Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. The eighth-year forward has the highest scoring average of his career at 9.9 points per game and is shooting a career-best .344 from 3-point range. Johnson, who was sought mainly for his defense, leads all NBA forwards by holding the players he defends to 33.2 percent from the field. Johnson signed a one-year, $4MM deal and will be a free agent again next summer.

Heat’s Luke Babbitt May Be Out Two Weeks

The injury-ravaged Heat got more bad news Thursday night when forward Luke Babbitt suffered a hip-flexor strain, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel.

Miami coach Erik Spoelstra describes the injury as similar to the one that has sidelined shooting guard Dion Waiters for at least two weeks.

“Probably a little bit similar to Dion,” Spoelstra said. “We’ll find out more. But it’s a hip-flexor strain. It’s not a contusion. So we’ll evaluate him.”

The seventh-year forward is averaging 4.2 points and 1.8 rebounds through 19 games, playing about 16 minutes per night. He has been in and out of the starting lineup as Spoelstra searches for the best combinations.

Babbitt was traded to Miami in July after spending the past three seasons in New Orleans. He is earning a little more than $1.2MM and will be a free agent when the season ends.

The Heat may be down to nine players for Saturday’s game after Josh Richardson was sent back to Miami on Thursday for treatment on his sore ankle. Waiters didn’t make the trip, nor did Justise Winslow, who has an injured wrist.

McGruder, McGee Receive Partial Guarantees

As our schedule of salary guarantee dates shows, four NBA players were originally believed to be on track to receive partial guarantees if they remained under contract through December 1. Two of those players – Briante Weber and Okaro White – were waived by the Heat earlier in the year, but the other two are still on their respective teams’ rosters.

The minimum-salary contract for Rodney McGruder, another member of the Heat, called for his partial guarantee to increase to $400K on Thursday, leaving only about $144K in non-guaranteed money on his deal. The rookie shooting guard has been a regular part of Miami’s rotation so far, averaging 22.9 minutes per game, so he looks like a safe bet to remain on the roster for the season, given his role and his contract situation.

Meanwhile, JaVale McGee‘s minimum-salary contract with the Warriors reportedly called for his partial guarantee to increase from $250K to $500K on Thursday. McGee has only played sparingly for Golden State in the early going, but he has a unique skill set on a Warriors team that lacks a traditional rim-protecting center. That could mean an increased role for him later this season, though his roster spot may not be entirely safe if the team finds a more reliable veteran center via free agency or trade.

So far, there have been no indications that either the Heat or Warriors pushed back their guarantee dates for McGruder or McGee, respectively, so we’ll assume both players received their increased partial guarantees unless we hear otherwise. Their salaries for 2016/17 will become fully guaranteed if they’re still under contract on January 10.

Richardson Returns To Miami For Treatment

  • Guard Josh Richardson returned to Miami during the Heat’s current three-game road trip to get treatment for his sore ankle, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports. Richardson suffered the injury against the Celtics on Monday. Miami is already playing without two of its top wings, Justise Winslow and Dion Waiters, due to injuries. “It’s an easy decision for us,” coach Erik Spoelstra told Winderman and other beat writers. “His ankle is really sore. He has a bunch of other little, minor things going on. So we just wanted to go back, get his body right, feel right for the next three days, four days. We’ll reevaluate him then.”

Dion Waiters Expected To Miss At Least Two Weeks

Heat guard Dion Waiters will be out of action for at least two weeks with a Pectineus tear, the team announced on its website.

Waiters, who was diagnosed today after an MRI, has been sidelined for more than a week with what was thought to be a groin ailment. He didn’t accompany the team on its current three-game road trip. Coach Erik Spoelstra said Waiters’ condition will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

Waiters was one of several free agents signed by the Heat this summer. He agreed in late July to a two-year, $6MM contract with a player option on the second season. The 24-year-old has appeared in 16 games, all starts, with averages of 14.2 points, 4.0 assists and 3.4 rebounds per night. He is shooting 38.4% from the field and 34.4% on 3-pointers.

The pain of losing Waiters is lessened somewhat by the recent return of Wayne Ellington, who missed the first five weeks of the season after suffering a quad injury in Miami’s final preseason game.

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