Dion Waiters

Pat Riley Speaks On State Of Heat

James Johnson and Dion Waiters would be entering free agency if things had gone differently for the Heat in the summer of 2017, writes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald.

At a press conference today, team president Pat Riley said he would have signed both players for two seasons instead of four if Miami had been able to land free agent targets Kevin Durant or Gordon Hayward. Once Durant picked the Warriors and Hayward signed with the Celtics, Riley agreed to longer contracts with both Johnson and Waiters.

“On July 1, I didn’t want to be left with nobody,” he said. “After five days of Gordon having to make a decision, I didn’t want to lose some players we had. I do know James had a deal [elsewhere if Miami didn’t sign him]. It was my decision. I didn’t want to lose all three of them.”

That decision left the Heat with two more expensive contracts that could help push the team $35MM above the cap next season, assuming Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic both opt in.

“We weren’t thinking of room after we lost Kevin Durant and Hayward,” Riley said. “We were thinking we had that 30-11 team come back [Miami’s record in the second half of the 2016/17 season]. We thought the contracts we gave were long-term contracts. That’s on me. You can put that all on me. We didn’t land Hayward and I didn’t want [to lose] the other two guys.”

Riley covered a wealth of topics during today’s session with the media. Here are a few, courtesy of Jackson and Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald:

  • Even if the Lakers were to make an offer, Riley won’t consider going to L.A. to take over for Magic Johnson. “There’s no doubt that I have a history with that team,” he said. “I have a lot of friends inside the organization. … But I’m not going to be a part of that.”
  • Riley wants coach Erik Spoelstra to find ways to get Whiteside and Bam Adebayo on the court at the same time. Despite being Miami’s highest-paid player, Whiteside averaged just 17 minutes per night over the final 19 games.
  • Riley said Waiters was slowed all season after ankle surgery and was “playing this year on 1 1/2 ankles.” He added that conditioning will be vital for Waiters next season. “I talked to him yesterday,” Riley said. “He knows. He has five months. If he gets his conditioning to world class condition, he can get back [to where he was for 25 excellent games two years ago]. I’m confident he will do it. His career is on the line.”
  • No matter what happens, tanking won’t be part of the Heat’s plans, Riley insists, noting how hard it is to fall into the bottom five in the league.
  • Riley encourages Udonis Haslem to take some time to decide whether he wants to return next season. Haslem has barely played over the past three years, but the Heat are willing to give him a roster spot for the veteran leadership he provides.
  • Duncan Robinson and Yante Maten, who were both signed through 2020/21 in the closing days of the season, may have a future with the team. “I give Duncan and Yante As,” Riley said. “They dominated the [G-League] the way you want them to dominate. That was the best team in the league for a while. We think both of them can develop and you don’t know how far they can go.”
  • Unless they get lucky in the lottery, the Heat will have the 13th pick in the draft, but Riley is optimistic they can find a contributor there. “I am not going to name names, but I’ve seen 30 players that are very good players,” he said. “At 13, I do think we would get something equivalent to who we have on our team right now, Bam, Justise [Winslow], Josh [Richardson] and Derrick Jones Jr.
  • Riley called Dwyane Wade‘s final season “pure love” as the Heat said goodbye to their all-time leading scorer.

Southeast Notes: Beal, Waiters, Graham, Hornets

Despite missing out on the playoffs, Wizards star Bradley Beal refuses to blame his team’s shortcomings on owner Ted Leonsis or upper management.

Washington fell to 31-46 on the season by losing to the Jazz on Friday, holding just a 22-16 record at home and 9-30 record on the road. Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld — overseen by Leonsis — put together a roster that many league observers were confident would make the playoffs when the season started. However, a series of injuries, shuffled pieces and bad chemistry eventually ended the team’s chances at making the tournament this year.

“And for me, my higher calling – I’ve let people down this year with the Wizards,” Leonsis said, according to NBC Sports Washington. “I want every one of our teams to make the playoffs and win a championship.”

Coming into the season, the Wizards sported a projected starting lineup of John Wall, Beal, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris and Dwight Howard. However, Wall underwent season-ending heel surgery in December (in addition to rupturing his Achilles in January), Porter was traded to Chicago, Morris was traded (and then waived by New Orleans), and Howard has been forced to miss all but nine games due to injuries this year.

“He’s not playing, so I can’t sit here and just allow him to take all the credit for it,” Beal said of Leonsis. “We can just continue to move forward, continue to get better, but it’s not just on him, it’s on everybody.”

The Wizards only have four players under contract entering the 2019/20 season, with forward Jabari Parker holding a $20MM team option and Howard holding a $5.6MM player option. Trevor Ariza, Wesley Johnson, Tomas SatoranskyJeff Green, Thomas Bryant and Chasson Randle are all set to become unrestricted free agents on July 1, with Bobby Portis and Sam Dekker likely to become restricted free agents.

There’s more today out of the Southeast Division:

  • Heat guard Dion Waiters plans to vigorously focus on his weight once the season comes to an end. Waiters, who underwent a major transformation after his first season in Miami, has taken a step back in his overall health since undergoing ankle surgery. “My whole mindset after the playoffs is getting right to it,” Waiters said, according to Ira Winderman of the Sen Sentinel. “I took a year and a half off. This season for me is more about getting back in the feel and things like that, trying to find my rhythm and get acclimated by playing.”
  • Hornets guard Devonte’ Graham is proving to be a keeper for the team, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer contends. Graham’s development has been boosted by the veteran presence of Tony Parker, with the 24-year-old point guard improving on both ends of the floor in his rookie season. Charlotte’s future at point guard is mostly uncertain outside of Graham, with Kemba Walker reaching free agency in July and Parker set to turn 37 in May.
  • With less than two weeks left of the regular season, the Hornets‘ biggest challenge might be finding definitive roles for Nicolas Batum and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bonnell wrote in a separate story for the Charlotte Observer. “Where they fit in the rotation, I don’t know,” head coach James Borrego said when asked about the two players. Batum has missed each of the last four games (largely due to an illness), while Kidd-Gilchrist has played in just one of his last five outings because of a concussion. Kidd-Gilchrist saw just eight minutes in a loss to the Lakers on Friday.

Heat Notes: Bosh, Adebayo, Waiters, Johnson, Wade

The Heat are set to retire Chris Bosh‘s jersey on Tuesday during halftime of their match-up against the Magic, celebrating Bosh’s career in Miami and closing the book on a positive note.

Bosh, whose six seasons with the Heat included two NBA championships and four Finals appearances, was forced to end his career early after being diagnosed with blood clots in 2015 and 2016. He wanted to return to the team following the diagnosis, but the chance of greater injury — or worse — was too much to risk for both the Heat and the rest of the league.

Micky [Arison] and Pat [Riley] — and this is one thing I have to get straight with people all the time — we never not talked,” Bosh said, as relayed by Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel. “We communicated through this whole ordeal. And my message was always the same, ‘I want to play the game. I want to explore more options to be able to play.'”

Bosh eventually accepted the reality that his playing days were over, recently confirming his retirement from the NBA. In addition to winning two titles, Bosh was an 11-time All-Star, a dominant force capable of scoring from inside and out. His ability to stretch the floor at the center position helped turn the game into what it is today, with more and more teams testing five-shooter lineups each season.

“You can’t live two lives,” Bosh admitted. “I’m going to parent-teacher conferences with my kids, and there’s these different things to get done throughout the day — and I’m trying to get a workout in. The longer I went without playing games, or having a contract or anything, the more difficult it got, the more fire I lost.”

There’s more today out of Miami:

  • In a separate article for the Sun Sentinel, Ira Winderman ponders whether the expectations for Bam Adebayo should increase. Adebayo has started the last 14 games in place of Hassan Whiteside, who has seen inconsistent playing time off the bench. Miami went 10-4 during that stretch.
  • Dion Waiters and James Johnson are exploding back onto the scene just in time for the Heat, Winderman opines. Johnson (sports hernia) and Waiters (ankle surgery) have mostly been away from the Heat over the last calendar year, but both contributed to the team’s win in Washington on Saturday night. “I feel explosive these last four games, to be honest,” Johnson said. Both players are working to regain their stamina and consistency as the team makes a final push to contend for the playoffs.
  • Add Scott Brooks, Jeff Green and Tomas Satoransky to the long list of NBA figures who believe Dwyane Wade shouldn’t retire after the season. “The NBA needs to just fine the Miami Heat for allowing him to retire,” Brooks said, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. “They should not allow him to retire. He’s too good to retire. I hope he changes his mind.” Wade has heard this frequently since announcing his decision to retire, but is adamant that he won’t reverse course. His final regular-season game is scheduled for Wednesday, April 10 against the Nets at Barclays Center.

Southeast Notes: Hornets, Kaminsky, Magic, Waiters

Even after changing their coach and GM during the offseason, the Hornets haven’t solved the problem with roster depth that has plagued them for years, writes Brendan Marks of The Charlotte Observer. The team is struggling to find points off its bench, especially during a three-game losing streak that has dropped the Hornets to ninth in the playoff race.

“You look at our stat line — our starters vs. their starters — we won that game,” coach Jim Borrego said after Wednesday’s loss to Houston. “Our starters won the game tonight, gave us a chance, and I’ve just got to figure out what to do with the second unit.”

Borrego recently moved rookie Miles Bridges into the starting lineup in place of Jeremy Lamb, who is second on the team in scoring at 15.1 PPG. However, when Lamb is in the game, defenses are focusing on him and backup point guard Tony Parker because the rest of the reserve unit doesn’t have a dependable scorer. Malik Monk has made just one of 12 shots in the past four games and has fallen out of the rotation.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Frank Kaminsky accompanied the Hornets on their trip to Brooklyn for tonight’s game as a buyout looks increasingly unlikely, tweets Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Today marks the deadline for players to be waived and still have postseason eligibility with another team.
  • The Magic have learned how to handle adversity and the players are crediting new coach Steve Clifford for bringing toughness to the team, relays Josh Robbins of The Athletic. Orlando overcame a late deficit to surprise the Warriors last night, moving into the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference. “I think it starts at the top, with the toughness of Coach Cliff,” Jonathan Isaac said. “It definitely has trickled down. We definitely feel ourselves as a more resilient, more mentally tough team, because we work for it. We work hard. We come in every day, and we work towards being mentally tough, and it shows out there.”
  • Dion Waiters‘ return from injury hasn’t produced the spark the Heat were hoping for, notes Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. He hasn’t bonded with Dwyane Wade, Winderman adds, and still hasn’t gotten his conditioning level where it needs to be.

Knee Injury Sidelines Heat’s Derrick Jones Jr.

Heat small forward Derrick Jones Jr. will be out for an extended period after an MRI revealed two right knee bone bruises, according to a team press release. He will begin treatment immediately and be re-evaluated in six weeks, the statement adds.

That means Jones won’t even begin practicing until at least early to mid-March, so the knee bruises could be a season-ending ailment. He suffered the injury during the second quarter on Sunday at New York.

Jones had emerged as a steady presence in the Heat rotation despite a logjam at the wing positions. He posted a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds against Cleveland on Friday. Jones also reached double figures in points on nine other occasions since mid-December. For the season, he’s averaging 7.4 PPG and 4.4 RPG in 18.1 MPG over 37 games.

The undrafted Jones, 21, began his career with Phoenix during the 2016/17 campaign. Jones’ injury should open up more playing time for Wayne Ellington, who started against the Knicks, and Dion Waiters. Both have been unhappy with their minutes.

Heat Notes: Johnson, McGruder, Waiters, Johnson

The Heat have had to use countless different lineup combinations throughout the season as players have come and gone due to injuries, but recently it has been Tyler Johnson that has become a key staple in the starting lineup.

As Ira Winderman writes for The Sun-Sentinal, Johnson has provided an energetic approach that has made him a perfect fit for the starting lineup, especially as Erik Spoelstra continues to look for ways to jumpstart his team.

The Heat have made several significant changes in the wake of Goran Dragic‘s injury, most notably converting Justise Winslow to being the team’s primary ball-handler and creator.

There’s more from the Heat:

Heat Notes: Waiters, Haslem, Ellington

The Heat have hit Dion Waiters with a fine after he publicly griped about his playing time earlier in the week, suggesting he was tired of being “patient” as he waited for an increased role. Miami didn’t disclose how much the fine for Waiters was worth, but said it was for conduct detrimental to the team, as David Furones of The South Florida Sun Sentinel tweets.

Head coach Erik Spoelstra addressed the issue today, telling reporters that dropping expletives and complaining to the media about his playing time won’t earn Waiters more minutes (Twitter link via Furones).

“I think it’s important for him to realize: Our team is much different than when he left last year, and while his teammates are really here to support him, nobody is volunteering their rotation minutes to him. It’ll have to be earned just like everybody else,” Spoelstra said, per Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. “These concepts of patience and surrendering to the team, whether we want to put expletives in front of it or behind it, those are going to be very important concepts for him to embrace, and I think he will.”

Here’s more on Waiters and the Heat:

  • According to Jackson, Waiters said today that he’s glad he let his frustration out, but he should have expressed it differently. “I was frustrated,” Waiters said. “I want to play. I want to speed this process up a little bit. I don’t mean no harm to nobody. I’m not perfect nor do I try to be. I just want to play the game I love that I missed for a year.” Waiters added that he “absolutely” wants to remain with the Heat.
  • Multiple teammates, including Udonis Haslem, spoke to Waiters – both privately and during a team meeting on Wednesday – about channeling his frustration in more productive ways, writes Jackson. “We don’t have any bad apples on our team,” Haslem said. “We understand Dion’s comments, while not the right thing to do, are coming from a good place.”
  • Waiters isn’t the only Heat player frustrated by his role. In a separate article for The Miami Herald, Jackson reports that Wayne Ellington‘s agent has had conversations with Heat officials about his client’s limited role and his future with the club. According to Jackson, the team stressed that it values Ellington and is aware he’d like to play more, but no promises were made.

Dion Waiters Unhappy With Playing Time

After missing more than a full year due to an ankle injury, Dion Waiters has recently returned to the Heat‘s rotation, with the team easing him back into a regular role. However, after playing just 12 minutes in a blowout loss to to the Bucks on Tuesday night, Waiters expressed frustration with his limited playing time, as Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald writes.

“F— patience!” Waiters said. “I want to play. I’ve been patient long enough. What do I got to be patient for? Come on man. I’ve been patient. I think everybody knows that. It’s time. What are we waiting for? If I’m out there, play me.”

According to Jackson, head coach Erik Spoelstra has said repeatedly that Waiters needs to be patient because he’s coming off a major injury and the Heat already have an over-crowded rotation. The 27-year-old has been available for seven games since returning to action earlier this month, but has appeared in only five, and averaged just 15.4 minutes in those contests, which would easily be a career low.

Waiters said after Tuesday’s game that his patience “has run out,” and that the “next step is being back in the starting lineup,” per Jackson. In his first two seasons with the Heat, Waiters started 73 of the 76 games he played, but he has come off the bench in his five games so far in 2018/19.

Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson, and Rodney McGruder are currently in Miami’s starting lineup, and the team also has to find playing time for Derrick Jones, Dwyane Wade, and Tyler Johnson. Throw in frontcourt minutes for starters Hassan Whiteside and James Johnson and backups Kelly Olynyk and Bam Adebayo, and it doesn’t leave much time for Waiters — or fellow shooting guard Wayne Ellington, who has fallen entirely out of the rotation. Keeping everyone happy will be even more challenging once Goran Dragic returns from his knee injury.

It will be interesting to see how the Heat, who currently hold the sixth seed in the East, manage their logjam in the coming weeks. Making a trade or two before the February 7 deadline might be in the best interests of both the club and its players.

Southeast Notes: Wizards, McGruder, Bamba, Briscoe

Even if the Wizards are granted an $8.6MM disabled player exception, they’re more likely to sign players to 10-day contracts than use that exception, according to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Washington applied for the exception due to John Wall‘s season-ending heel surgery.

The Wizards’ cap issues make it unlikely they’d find a free agent enticing enough to sign for the remainder of the season by using a portion of the exception. The Wizards inked point guard Ramon Sessions to a pair of 10-day contracts last season before signing him for the rest of the season, Hughes notes.

We have more from around the Southeast Division:

  • Shooting guard Rodney McGruder could lose his rotation spot if Heat coach Erik Spoelstra decides to expand Tyler Johnson‘s minutes, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel writes in his latest mailbag. In that instance, Dion Waiters would start ahead of McGruder and Johnson would receive second unit minutes. Waiters returned from ankle surgery three games ago. McGruder has played fewer than 20 minutes in three of the last four games.
  • An MRI on rookie center Mohamed Bamba‘s sore foot showed no structural damage, Josh Robbins of The Athletic tweets. Magic coach Steve Clifford said Bamba is unlikely to play this weekend, Robbins adds. The sixth overall pick sat out against Utah on Wednesday.
  • Clifford is inclined to keep rookie Isaiah Briscoe in the Magic’s rotation as the backup point guard, Robbins reports in another tweet. Briscoe has averaged 17.5 MPG in the last two games, contributing 5.5 PPG and 3.5 APG. The undrafted Kentucky product has displaced Jerian Grant, who had been backing up D.J. Augustin. Briscoe’s salary is non-guaranteed after this season, while Grant could be an unrestricted free agent if the club doesn’t extend a $3.76MM qualifying offer.

Heat Notes: Bosh, Wade, Trade Candidates, Butler

Chris Bosh hasn’t officially announced his retirement, but Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald writes that he appears to be settling into life after basketball, which includes a connection to the Heat. In addition to being at courtside for the team’s past three home games, Bosh is doing some behind-the-scenes work, offering advice to team president Pat Riley and talking to players in the locker room.

It’s a significant step considering the terms under which Bosh left the organization. He had hoped to resume his playing career after being diagnosed with blood clots, but couldn’t get medical clearance from the team. He failed a physical prior to the 2016/17 season and was waived after that season ended. The Heat are paying him $26.8MM this year, although that figure doesn’t count against their salary cap.

“Chris was going through a lot,” Dwyane Wade said. “He was somebody who was one of the best players in the world, and he had a diagnosis that comes that no one is familiar with, really. It’s just a tough situation. You got a player who was 32 at the time, something like that, and the way the game is going, can play for a long time. It’s just unfortunate. So yeah, of course it’s going to take a lot of hardship to get out of that situation and get to where everybody is now. But the bigger picture, he needs to and should be a part of this organization. I’m glad to see him around.”
There’s more news from Miami:
  • The first returns in the All-Star voting show how much love there is around the league for Wade, notes Candace Buckner of The Washington Post. Despite being in a reserve role in his final NBA season, Wade ranked second among Eastern Conference guards with more than 409K votes. “I just appreciate and am humbled by people taking the time out to want to see my old self in an All-Star Game, so it’s cool,” Wade said. “… I know a lot of people are saying, ‘We need to take the fans votes away,’ but they’re the ones who want to see who they want to see.”
  • The Heat will have 13 players worthy of being in the rotation once Goran Dragic returns from injury and could look at the trade deadline as a chance to thin out their roster, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. Wayne Ellington has already fallen far out of the rotation and more players could join him with Dragic’s projected return around the All-Star break. Winderman sees James Johnson, Dion Waiters and Kelly Olynyk as trade candidates, with Ellington included as a throw-in.
  • The latest controversy over Jimmy Butler in Philadelphia doesn’t mean things would have worked out the same way if he had been traded to Miami, Winderman states in a question-and-answer column. He notes that Butler would have been the unquestioned top star with the Heat and the focus of the offense.