Southeast Notes: Waiters, Howard, Walker, Randle

Heat guard Dion Waiters was cleared for a full-contact practice this week, his first full session since undergoing ankle surgery in January, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.

When asked whether Waiters could return by the end of the calendar year, coach Erik Spoelstra delivered a blunt assessment.

“I don’t know. Basically right now, it’s day-by-day evaluations,” Spoelstra said. “But he’s doing a lot more on the court, which is good.”

Waiters has missed Miami’s first 30 games this season, working to get back to 100 percent and improve his conditioning. The Heat mostly kept his status and progression quiet up until Tuesday, when news suddenly broke of his full participation at practice.

“It’s very encouraging,” teammate Dwyane Wade said on Tuesday. “I think today was the first day that we were on the same unit. He has so much talent. He’s one of the guys that playing against him, I’ve seen the talent that he has on both ends of the floor. Then, obviously, I watched him when he was here and he was healthy, and he played very well.

“You want him to get back healthy, understanding that he can definitely help us with his ability to score the basketball, to make plays and to defend. It’s going to take him a while to get to where he wants to get to, but he’s getting closer each day. It’s good to see him out there.”

Waiters, 27, was a key cog in the Heat’s late season run two years ago. He’ll provide the team with a much-needed boost of energy upon his return after it was revealed Goran Dragic would miss two months with a knee injury, further depleting the club of ball-handlers.

There’s more from the Southeast Division tonight:

  • Wizards center Dwight Howard shared his first health update since undergoing back surgery, explaining his improvements to NBC Sports’ Chris Miller. “Physically, I’m a lot better than I was before the surgery,” Howard said. “The nine games I played, I basically played on one leg. So, you know, I’m just happy that that’s out the way and I can rehab and get ready for the second half of the season.” The Wizards could greatly benefit from Howard’s return, with the team just 12-20 on the season and 4-6 in their last 10 games.
  • Hornets guard Kemba Walker remains focused on improving his team, despite the mass speculation about his upcoming free agency. “That’s just how it is. I know how it goes,” Walker told Jeremy Woo of the Crossover. “It’s something I try not to think about. There’s nothing I can do about it right now. I don’t know my future at this point.” Walker will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
  • Despite his one-year deal with the Wizards being non-guaranteed, Chasson Randle is excited for his new opportunity to play in Washington. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Randle told Candace Buckner of the Washington Post on Tuesday. “I’m in Atlanta playing for the Wizards. It’s just awesome to be here.” Randle, who went undrafted in 2015, held NBA experience with the Sixers and Knicks before joining the Wizards. He signed his contract with the team on Tuesday.
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