- 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.
- After Tom Thibodeau became the fourth NBA coach in the last two years to lose his dual title of head coach and president of basketball operations, Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports writes that the trend has run its course. While that may be the case for now, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst believes it’s just a matter of time until we see another franchise try it. Windhorst suggests that Heat coach Erik Spoelstra will be a candidate to assume some or all of Pat Riley‘s personnel control when Riley eventually retires.
JANUARY 8, 10:42am: Haslem addressed the subject of his retirement again today, according to Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald, who tweets that the veteran said he’s 90% sure he’ll call it a career at season’s end.
JANUARY 7, 9:45pm: One longtime Heat player will call it a career at the end of this season, with Dwyane Wade having already announced that he plans to retire in 2019. A second Miami veteran appears likely to join him in retirement, as Udonis Haslem told David Yapkowitz of Basketball Insiders that the 2018/19 season will probably be his last.
“I’m gonna call it done too. There’s nothing else left for me to do on the basketball court,” Haslem said. “My kids are getting older, my son is playing college football at the University of Toledo, my 11-year-old is playing travel baseball and I never see him as he’s always out of town. My eight-year-old is playing travel basketball. There’s so many other things for me to be engaged in right now.”
While Haslem’s comments sound pretty definitive, and echo ones he made in the fall, Haslem suggested to Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel (Twitter links) that he’s not making anything official just yet.
“I mean, the people that are close to me and that I’ve spoken to about it, they pretty much know what the situation is,” Haslem said. “But, at the same time… I just want to wait until the end of the season and weigh my options. Physically, I can still play. Mentally, my mind still thinks the game.”
As Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press notes (via Twitter), Haslem believes he’s still capable of playing and “desperately” wants to do so — it kills him not to see more action, says Reynolds. While Haslem has suggested he’ll likely retire at season’s end, the Heat would probably be willing to bring him back for another season, according to Reynolds.
Haslem, who will turn 39 in June, has been a member of the Heat since 2003, but has seen his playing time cut back significantly in recent years. After appearing in 14 games last season, he has played in three so far in 2018/19.
Justise Winslow took a giant leap with the Heat in December, seeing most of his minutes at point guard and proving his worth by running the team’s offense during games. The sudden transformation came when All-Star guard Goran Dragic sustained a knee injury, forcing coach Erik Spoelstra to make a quick decision and give more ball-handling duties to Winslow.
Winslow has thrived in Dragic’s absence, providing multiple 20-plus point games and high assist games with Miami.
“Justise at the point guard is a lot different,” teammate Hassan Whiteside said. “He’s so big, he can just a lot of time bulldoze his way to the basket when he can’t get a pass.”
The rapid increase of production from Winslow, the Heat’s 2015 first-round pick, has earned the confidence of Spoelstra and the Heat’s coaching staff. Spoelstra outlined his perfect hypothetical stat line for Winslow in the coming years, giving him a high benchmark to set.
“I think the perfect stat lines for him would be 14, 15 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists, five steals,” Spoelstra said, according to Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel. “There’s very few guys in this league that can have that kind of balance and effect on a basketball game and he’s one of those kind of guys.”
Winslow has averaged 14.7 points, 5.1 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game over his last 13 contests, with the Heat holding a 9-4 record during that span.
There’s more from the Southeast Division:
- Magic center Timofey Mozgov underwent a successful arthroscopic procedure in his right knee, the team announced on social media. Mozgov had the surgery on Friday in Miami, with his return to basketball activity dictated on how he responds to treatment. Mosgov has yet to play a single game with Orlando this season.
- Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer examines the situation between Kemba Walker and the Hornets, with Walker set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Charlotte has failed to build a successful team around Walker during his time with the team, Fowler writes, but could offer him a five-year maximum extension worth $190MM in free agency. Walker has averaged a career-high 25.3 points, 5.9 assists and 1.3 steals this season with the Hornets.
- Magic coach Steve Clifford praised Aaron Gordon for his solid play in recent games, as relayed by Chris Hays of the Orlando Sentinel.“I think he’s playing at an incredibly high level and some nights he’s not getting as many shots, but I think it’s because he’s really locked in on just making the right play and making plays for his teammates and things like that,” Clifford said of Gordon. “I think his defense and his rebounding have been terrific and I think he’s in a stretch of games here where he’s just playing really well.”
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.
- 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.
As we relayed earlier today, Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra is “sick” to his stomach about his inability to find minutes for veteran sharpshooter Wayne Ellington. And now that fellow guard and teammate Dion Waiters is set to return from his ankle injury, don’t expect playing time decisions to get any easier for Spoelstra.
Not counting Waiters or up-and-coming youngster Derrick Jones, the Heat already have 11 players on standard NBA contracts who log 20.5 minutes per game or more, the most of anyone in the league. And of those 12 players, seven are swingmen who play primarily on the wing (Josh Richardson, Rodney McGruder, Justise Winslow, Dwyane Wade, Tyler Johnson, Ellington, and Waiters).
In tonight’s blowout win against the Cavs, Wade logged a DNP-Illness, with the remainder of the minutes on the wing going to Richardson (32), Jones (31), Winslow (27), Johnson (26), McGruder (21), and Waiters (11).
With Wade back in the mix soon and Waiters presumably playing his way into more minutes, the question becomes whether the Heat will move on from some of the aforementioned players, such as Waiters or Ellington, or keep the roster logjam as currently constructed as insurance in the event of another injury.
That brings us to our question of the day: Do you think the Heat should try to move on from some of their wings or keep them all around for the rest of the 2018/19 season? If they alter their roster, who is the most likely wing to be moved? Ellington? Waiters? Somebody else?
Please take to the comments section to weigh in. We look forward to your input.
Speaking on Wednesday to reporters, including Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said he’s “sick to my stomach” about not being able to find more minutes for veteran sharpshooter Wayne Ellington.
Ellington – who was an important part of Miami’s rotation in 2017/18, knocking down 39.2% of his three-pointers in a career-high 26.5 MPG (77 games) – has been the odd man out this season when the team has had a relatively full roster. His MPG average has dipped to 22.7, and he has frequently been a healthy scratch.
Since December 4, Ellington has appeared in just four games and played 32 total minutes, and with Dion Waiters set to return from his ankle injury, playing time may be even harder to come by going forward.
As Jackson relays, Ellington hasn’t had any conversations with Spoelstra or Heat president Pat Riley about a potential trade. However, he didn’t rule out the possibility of approaching team officials at some point and asking them to find a place where he could play more.
“Anything is a possibility,” Ellington said. “I can’t sit here and say yes or no to a question like that right now. But at the same time, I want to play but I want it to be with these guys, with my brothers. Hopefully we can work it out.”
[RELATED: Trade Candidate Watch: Southeast Division]
The Heat have re-entered the top eight in the Eastern Conference in recent weeks, relying on wings like Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow, Rodney McGruder, Dwyane Wade, and Derrick Jones. Because Miami’s most productive lineups haven’t featured Ellington (Miami has a -9.5 net rating in his minutes), it has been difficult to find a role for the 31-year-old, though Spoelstra stressed that’s “not an indictment on his play,” adding that he has “great empathy” for the veteran.
While Ellington, who is in a contract year, is staying patient for now, he admits that the thought of joining a team that would play him more has “absolutely” crossed his mind, according to Jackson.
“You come off your best season in your career to this situation, of course it crosses your mind,” Ellington said. “I’m human. A lot of things cross your mind. It’s a tough situation for anybody.”
Dion Waiters is getting closer to making his season debut after having ankle surgery 12 months ago. The Heat tweeted this afternoon that Waiters will travel to Cleveland with the team and is listed as questionable for tomorrow night’s game.
Waiters spent the weekend practicing with Miami’s G League affiliate in Sioux Falls and told Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel that he’s ready to play.
“It felt great. I feel great,” he said. “If you ask those guys out there, I don’t think I missed a shot, a lot of deep shots, too, a lot of attacking and making plays for other guys.”
The trip to Sioux Falls gave Waiters a chance to scrimmage against NBA veterans DeAndre Liggins, Briante Weber and Jarnell Stokes as he prepares for his first game action since December 22, 2017. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said he received encouraging reports about Waiters’ performance.
There’s more today out of Miami:
- Waiters’ return will add to an already crowded backcourt and could provide more incentive to trade Wayne Ellington, Winderman suggests in a question-and-answer column. The 3-point specialist is playing just 22.7 minutes per night, his lowest total since coming to Miami, and could have more value as a trade chip than at the end of the rotation. Because he re-signed with the Heat over the summer on a one-year contract, Ellington has the power to veto any trade, but Winderman believes he would be willing to accept a deal that promises more playing time.
- Sunday’s game against the Timberwolves reminded Josh Richardson that he spent the early part of the season hearing rumors that he was headed to Minnesota, Winderman writes in a separate story. The Wolves were reportedly close to acquiring Richardson as the key piece in a Jimmy Butler trade, but the Heat nixed the deal when Minnesota allegedly asked for more assets. “When your name is out there like that, I was just ready for whatever happened, really,” Richardson said. “I wanted to stay here. But if a move happened, then I was prepared.”
- Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald names Richardson the most improved athlete in his 2018 awards for South Florida sports. He chooses Dwyane Wade‘s return to the Heat as the best personnel move.
Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we turn our attention to the Southeast Division:
Jeremy Lin, Hawks, 30, PG (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $38.3MM deal in 2016
Lin suffered a season-ending knee injury last October with Brooklyn. He’s bounced back impressively as the backup point guard in Atlanta. He’s averaging 10.9 PPG and 3.2 APG in 18.5 MPG while posting an above-average PER. For a contender looking to fill the same spot, Lin would be a viable option prior to the trade deadline. He’ll have to accept a lower salary with his next contract but he shouldn’t have too much trouble finding work in July.
Frank Kaminsky, Hornets, 25, PF (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $11.8MM deal in 2015
Far removed from leading Wisconsin to the 2015 national championship, Kaminsky continues to disappoint as a pro. Under former coach Steve Clifford, Kaminsky was a steady presence in the rotation. First-year James Borrego has buried Kaminsky so deep on the bench that the stretch four hasn’t played the last three games. Kaminsky could be a restricted free agent if the Hornets extend a $4.9MM qualifying option but that’s not happening. He’ll be looking to hit the reset button in July.
Rodney McGruder, Heat, 27, SG (Down) – Signed to a three-year, $3.4MM deal in 2016
McGruder has started regularly for the Heat this season but that might not last much longer. He’s averaged 5.2 points in his last five outings while shooting 27.6 percent from the field. His PER is well below average. In McGruder’s favor is his team-friendly contract. He’ll be a restricted free agent if the Heat extend a $1.93MM qualifying offer. Whether he receives it will likely depend on how much cap space Pat Riley wants to open up.
Nikola Vucevic, Magic, 28, C (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $53MM deal in 2015
Orlando has some young, athletic bigs but Vucevic is so productive, he’s maintained his minutes under new coach Steve Clifford. The veteran big man is averaging a career-high 20.8 PPG, 11.8 RPG and 3.6 APG. Like many 7-footers his age, Vucevic came into the league as mainly a low post player but has extended his range beyond the arc. He’s made 39% of his attempts this season. Currently ranked No. 10 in our Free Agent Power Rankings, Vucevic should be a nice consolation prize for a team with significant cap space that strikes out pursuing the biggest names on the market.
Trevor Ariza, Wizards, 33, SF (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $15MM deal in 2018
Phoenix quickly moved Ariza to a team fighting for a playoff spot after giving him a nice one-year payday over the summer. The Wizards are just 1-4 since acquiring Ariza but what’s more significant is how many teams inquired about him before the trade. He reportedly drew interest from at least eight clubs. His 3-and-D skills remain in high demand and he should be able to land at least one more big-money contract before he retires.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Here are Friday’s G League assignments and recalls from around the NBA:
- The Kings assigned big man Harry Giles to the Stockton Kings, according to a team press release. Giles has appeared in 22 games for Sacramento in his rookie season, posting 5.3 PPG and 2.7 RPG in 10.1 MPG, but has only played six games this month.
- The Jazz assigned center Tony Bradley to the Salt Lake City Stars, the team’s PR department tweets. The Stars face the Austin Spurs on Friday. Bradley is averaging 14.6 PPG and 7.5 RPG in 14 G League contests this season.
- The Hornets recalled forward Dwayne Bacon and guard Devonte Graham from the Greensboro Swarm, according to a team press release. Bacon had 19 points and nine rebounds in the Swarm’s win over the Maine Red Claws on Thursday. He has appeared in 17 games with Charlotte, averaging 5.5 PPG in 12.3 MPG. Graham totaled 30 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals for the Swarm on Thursday. He’s appeared in 13 Hornets games.
- The Heat assigned shooting guard Dion Waiters to Sioux Falls, Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald tweets. Waiters is expected to practice twice with the G League team and rejoin the Heat on Sunday, Chiang adds. Waiters hasn’t played this season after undergoing ankle surgery last winter.
- The Bucks assigned rookie guard Donte DiVincenzo to the Wisconsin Herd, according to a team press release. DiVincenzo, the 17th pick of the draft has appeared in 22 games with the Bucks, averaging 5.0 PPG in 16.1 MPG.