It won’t get the attention that Kevin Durant‘s first game against Oklahoma City did, but Dion Waiters is preparing for his own battle with the Thunder, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. The Heat will travel Monday to OKC, where Waiters probably would have stayed if Durant had decided to. Instead, the Thunder opted to use Waiters’ cap space to sign Russell Westbrook to an extension, and the fifth-year guard headed to Miami. Waiters spent a season and a half in Oklahoma City and has fond memories of his time there. “The team there really turned me into a pro,” Waiters said. “I really matured there a lot. Just embracing the whole atmosphere and the city, just how much the team and everybody means to the community was huge. I mean, that’s probably the best time I had, in my experiences, and then my first time in the playoffs.”
There’s more from Miami:
- This year’s extensions put into perspective the big-money deals the Heat signed during the summer, Winderman writes in a separate piece. Miami gave center Hassan Whiteside $98MM over four seasons, which is less than the four-year, $102MM extension Rudy Gobert just got from Utah or the four-year, $100MM extension that Steven Adams received from Oklahoma City. And the four-year, $50MM offer sheet the Heat matched for Tyler Johnson is less than the deals just given to Victor Oladipo, Gorgui Dieng, Cody Zeller or Dennis Schroder. “You’re going to look back at deals like this right now later on down the line and they aren’t going to look like a whole lot,” Johnson said. “Some of these superstars are going to be up there … and it’s going to be crazy.”
- Guard Josh Richardson made his season debut Friday night, less than two months after suffering a knee injury in September, notes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. Richardson missed all four of his shots and committed two turnovers, but was on the floor for his defense in the fourth quarter. “I felt fine,” he said. “I’ve got to trust my knee fully. I’ve got to find a rhythm. I told [coach Erik Spoelstra] going into halftime that I felt good. My teammates were encouraging me the whole game. I feel ready.”
- James Johnson, one of Miami’s many offseason additions, enjoyed returning to Toronto for Friday’s game, writes Ryan Wolstat of The Toronto Sun. Johnson had two stints with the Raptors and was a crowd favorite. “We made something happen last year and it was good to see the guys that we made it happen with,” Johnson said.