Dion Waiters couldn’t be with the Heat last night because he’s in the middle of a 10-game suspension, so he traveled to Syracuse to watch the Orange and get some advice from his college coach, writes Donna Ditota of Syracuse.com.
“I just wanted to come up and talk to coach (Jim Boeheim),” Waiters said in his first public comments since the season began. “I know that’s a person who will always be there for me if I ever need anything. It’s a chance for me to come up, be around, talk to the coaches, things like that. And that’s important.”
It’s been a troubled season already for Waiters, who was also suspended for opening night after clashing with Miami coach Erik Spoelstra in a preseason argument about playing time. Waiters has only been active for two games and hasn’t taken the court at all.
The emergence of rookies Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro has made Waiters expendable in an already crowded backcourt. The Heat have reportedly tried to work out a trade, but haven’t found any interest in Waiters, who is making $12.1MM this year and is under contract for 2020/21 at $12.65MM.
In his conversation with Ditota, Waiters refused to discuss the specifics of what happened on the team flight, but insisted he’s still “in a great place” mentally.
“I can only control what I can control at the end of the day, so some things you just can’t allow to take your head the other way, some things happen for a reason,” he said. “If you stay locked in, if you believe and trust in yourself, trust in the work you put in, you know, it’s a minor setback. It happens. It’s life. You learn from it. The only thing I can do is move forward. Stay focused. Stay even-keeled. Let everything else take care of itself.”
- Point guard Goran Dragic, a 2020 free agent and former All-Star, was talked into a bench role on the surging Heat over a September brunch, according to a new deep dive from The Athletic’s Shandel Richardson. Foregoing mimosas for coffee and eggs, coach Erik Spoelstra pitched Dragic on the role change mid-meal. “He mentioned it to me at brunch and he was saying after that [2018/19 knee] injury he was thinking this was the best way,” Dragic relayed. “I said, ‘Whatever it takes, Coach. I’m going to do whatever you ask of me.’” Dragic, the second-highest paid Heat player, has averaged 16.1 PPG, 5.1 APG, and 3.4 RPG for the 8-3 Heat.
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 take a look at players from the Southeast Division:
Devonte’ Graham, Hornets, 24, PG (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $4MM deal in 2018
The Hornets have until July 7th to decide whether to guarantee Graham’s $1,663,861 for next season. Safe to say, that decision has already been made. In terms of salary vs. production, Graham might be the biggest bargain in the league this season. Making just over $1.4MM, Graham leads the team in scoring at 18.0 PPG and 7.3 APG while coming off the bench in all but one game. The Kansas product appeared in 46 games last season, averaging 4.7 PPG in 14.7 MPG. With Kemba Walker bolting to Boston, Graham has blossomed in an expanded role.
Goran Dragic, Heat, 33, PG (Up) – Signed to a five-year, $85MM deal in 2015
Dragic played in just 36 games last season due to right knee surgery. Dragic, now 33, has been a starter most of his career and had to adjust to a second-unit role this season. Thus far, he’s been healthy and productive. He’s averaging 16.1 PPG and 5.1 APG in 28.4 MPG while making just 1.8 TPG. Dragic’s $19.2MM expiring contract is a tradeable asset if the Heat decide to shed salary. For now, Dragic is a valuable part of an improved team that should make the playoffs out of arguably the weakest division in the NBA.
Evan Fournier, Magic, 27, SG (Up) – Signed to a five-year, $85MM deal in 2016
Following a couple of sluggish outings against Oklahoma City and Dallas in which he shot 3-for-12 from the field, Fournier has put together a nice three-game stretch. He’s averaged 18.0 PPG and 5.0 APG during that span while knocking down nine 3-pointers and committing just four turnovers. Orlando won two of those games. The team’s second-leading scorer has a $17.15MM option on his contract for next season. In a very weak free agent market, Fournier has plenty of incentive to decline that option in order to secure another long-term deal.
Evan Turner, Hawks, 31, SF (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $70MM deal in 2016
A rotation piece for a playoff team in recent seasons, Turner was swapped by the Trail Blazers for Kent Bazemore during the offseason. Turner was expected to provide veteran stability to a mostly inexperienced unit in Atlanta. But he only averaged 11.3 MPG during the Hawks’ first three games before being sidelined by Achilles soreness. It’s uncertain how much time Turner will require to recover from the injury. In the meantime, Atlanta has plenty of other options at the wing positions and the return of Allen Crabbe further clouds Turner’s role whenever he’s healthy enough to play.
Isaiah Thomas, Wizards, 30, PG (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $2.32MM deal in 2019
Thomas’ latest attempt to revive his career seems to be working out. Since returning from a training camp injury, Thomas has jumped into the rotation and seen his playing time steadily increase. He’s averaging 13.9 PPG and 6.3 APG while shooting 38.5 percent from long range in 24.1 MPG. Following a lost season in Denver, Thomas has at least reestablished himself as a rotation player. That’s a heartwarming development for a popular player who was an MVP candidate just a few seasons ago in Boston.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Once the Trail Blazers make their deal with Carmelo Anthony official, only seven teams around the NBA will have open spots on their rosters. Six of those clubs have openings on their standard 15-man squads, while the seventh has an available two-way slot.
Typically, in the first half of an NBA season, some teams keep a roster spot open to retain flexibility and to avoid paying a player who hardly ever actually sees the court. However, whether it’s a result of an increased focus on player development or a steady stream of injuries league-wide, most clubs this season have taken advantage of all 17 roster spots (15 standard, two two-way) available to them.
As Bobby Marks of ESPN observes (via Twitter), the six teams that haven’t signed a 15th man are all somewhat limited by their cap situations. Here are those six teams:
- Cleveland Cavaliers
- Denver Nuggets
- Golden State Warriors
- Miami Heat
- Oklahoma City Thunder
- Orlando Magic
The Heat and Warriors literally can’t sign a 15th man unless they cut salary costs elsewhere, since they’re right up against the hard cap. The Thunder are already in the tax and – as Marks notes – the Cavaliers and Nuggets would go into the tax by signing one more player. The Magic wouldn’t technically become a projected taxpayer by adding a 15th man, but they’re close enough to that threshold that it makes sense for them to hold off until they really need to fill that spot.
There’s just one team that hasn’t used both of its two-way contract openings:
- Phoenix Suns
The Suns have their own G League affiliate, so it’s not clear why they haven’t yet taken advantage of that second two-way contract slot. The deadline for teams to sign players to two-way contracts is January 15 — it’s a pretty safe bet that Phoenix will sign a second two-way player by that point.
In total, 450 standard roster spots and 60 two-way slots are typically available during the NBA season, for a total of 510 players on 30 teams. Currently, 504 players are on standard contracts or two-way deals (the Nets are carrying an 18th man while Wilson Chandler serves his 25-game suspension), leaving few NBA job opportunities up for grabs unless teams start making cuts.
Dion Waiters is in the midst of a 10-game suspension for the Heat and there have been conflicting reports on what the team wants to do with the shooting guard once he returns from his time away. Some writers have speculated that Waiters has played his last game with the club while Shams Charania indicated that the team is going to welcome him back.
Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald hears that the door is open for a return, but it would take a lot for Waiters to earn the trust of the franchise again. Waiters would need to do “absolutely everything right” for Miami to consider playing him again, Jackson writes, adding the caveat that an injury in the team’s backcourt may make the club soften its stance.
The Heat have yet to come to a consensus within the organization on how they are going to operate when Waiters does return. A buyout is possible but unlikely; an outright release is even more unlikely given Miami’s hard cap issues; a trade may take some hard selling to another NBA club.
Waiters’ suspension will end after the team’s Nov. 29 game vs. the Warriors. Here’s more on the Heat:
- Agent Rich Paul could be the X-factor in what happens with Waiters’ future. Paul represents the shooting guard, as Jackson adds in the same piece, and it’s possible that the agent will use his influence to challenge an unfavorable decision the Heat make.
- Coach Erik Spoelstra is thrilled with the team’s big man rotation, particularly Kelly Olynyk and Meyers Leonard, which give the Heat two bigs who can stretch the floor.“You want to be able to exploit opponent defenses, and we have two seven-footers who can stretch the floor,” Spoelstra said (via Jackson in the same piece). “It opens up the floor to attackers and for the pick-and-roll game. They each have a different way of getting to their strengths. Meyers is such a great screener, gets guys open. KO has some playmaking ability as well that can put unique pressure on a defense.”
- Kendrick Nunn has been getting feedback from Dwyane Wade on his game and the rookie is soaking up the information, as Jackson relays.“He told me he’s happy for me, to continue to develop and learn, be a sponge, just learn as much as I can,” Nunn said. “It was definitely meaningful coming from him, someone who has been in this organization and left their legacy here and created a culture, has been part of a culture and championship for years. It was definitely big coming from him. I’ve been watching him since I can remember. Years going back, he was one of my favorite players for sure.”
Dion Waiters will serve the second game of his 10-game suspension on Tuesday night as the Heat host the Pistons, and the team wasn’t saying much about his situation on Monday, as Khobi Price of The South Florida Sun Sentinel details. With Waiters ineligible to return until December 1, we’ll have to wait and see what the next step is for the franchise and the 27-year-old guard, who has yet to play a single minute this season.
Assuming Miami isn’t hit hard by the injury bug during the rest of November, it’s probably safe to assume the club’s rotation will be relatively set by the end of the month, meaning there won’t be minutes waiting for Waiters when his suspension ends, writes Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. If that’s the case, it will be interesting to see how Waiters responds, since his one-game suspension to open the season was related to expressing displeasure with his role.
According to Shams Charania of Stadium (video link), the Heat have made it clear to Waiters that they want him to earn a role, but he’ll have to get back in the team’s good graces before that happens. Even then, there’s no guarantee the former No. 4 overall pick would play regular minutes for Miami.
If there’s no path to a rotation spot for Waiters, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Heat could pay him to stay home. In fact, Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel estimates there’s a 50-50 chance that it plays out that way, suggesting that the over/under for Waiters appearances this season might have to be set at zero.
Even if Waiters remains away from the Heat though, there’s “zero chance” the team will release him at this point, Winderman writes in a separate Sun Sentinel article. Waiters still has two years remaining on his contract, with a guaranteed $12.65MM cap hit for the 2020/21 season, so unless he agrees to give up some of his guaranteed salary in a buyout agreement – which he has no incentive to do – it makes more sense to keep him around. In theory, he could be used as a salary-matching chip in a trade at some point.
For now though, the plan is ostensibly for Waiters to serve his time, rejoin the Heat, and work to earn minutes. In today’s poll, we want to know if that’s how you think this saga plays out. Will Waiters play another game for the Heat or not?
Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to share your thoughts!
Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.
Heat guard Dion Waiters has been suspended for 10 games without pay, league sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). According to Charania (Twitter link), the suspension is club-issued, with the Heat citing conduct detrimental to the team.
The Heat made their decision in the wake of Waiters experiencing a medical episode on a team flight after consuming a “gummy,” an edible form of marijuana. Per Charania (via Twitter), the club believes Waiters was given that gummy by a teammate, but the veteran guard hasn’t been willing to say where he got it from.
“We are very disappointed in Dion’s actions this season that include the very scary situation on Thursday night, and grateful that the outcome wasn’t worse,” the Heat said in a statement. “There have been a number of instances this season in which Dion has engaged in conduct detrimental to the team.
“… We expect all of our players, including Dion, to conduct themselves in accordance with the highest standards, and to show professionalism and respect for their teammates, the team, the fans and the NBA community.”
According to Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel (via Twitter), Waiters’ suspension began on Friday when Miami faced the Lakers. As such, he’ll be eligible to return on December 1 in Brooklyn. Based on how his season has gone so far, however, it’s safe to say Waiters won’t be immediately reinserted into the Heat’s lineup at that point.
This is already the second time Waiters has been suspended in 2019/20 — the Heat also banned him for the first game of the season due to conduct detrimental to the team. Since then, he has been inactive for nearly all the club’s games and has yet to play a single regular-season minute.
The 27-year-old made additional waves when he took to social media following his first suspension and took shots at head coach Erik Spoeltra, commenting on one Instagram post, “I would win if I had Bron & Wade plus Bosh.” Winderman suggests (via Twitter) that Waiters’ social media posts were a factor in the latest discipline levied by the Heat.
As Bobby Marks of ESPN observes (via Twitter), Waiters’ latest suspension will cost him in excess of $834K in salary. He’s also now ineligible to receive his $1.2MM bonus for playing in at least 70 games, though that looked like a long shot anyway, based on how the first few weeks of the season played out.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The medical episode that Heat guard Dion Waiters experienced during a team flight was a panic attack that resulted from “consuming a THC-infused edible,” sources tell Brian Windhorst and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
The incident happened after Thursday’s game in Phoenix, which Waiters missed because of a stomachache. He was trying to relieve that condition when he took a substance that he wasn’t familiar with, according to the ESPN writers, and received medical treatment when the plane landed in Los Angeles. Heat officials declined to comment on the report.
THC is included on the NBA’s list of banned substances. The league, its teams and the Players Association are all prohibited from releasing information about the testing or treatment of players in the anti-drug program, tweets salary cap expert Albert Nahmad. The only exceptions involve suspension or dismissal of players for drug violations.
Nahmad notes that players with marijuana violations are required to enter into the league’s marijuana program. There is no penalty for a first violation, but the league imposes a $25K fine for a second offense, a five-game suspension for a third offense and longer suspensions for subsequent violations (Twitter link).
South Florida Fox Sports Radio host Andy Slater reported Friday that Waiters overdosed on “gummies,” which is a term for an edible form of marijuana. Gummies have been readily available in Denver, where the Heat began their latest road trip, since Colorado legalized recreational marijuana.
Waiters has yet to play this season and has only been on the bench for two of the team’s nine games. His contract includes a $1.2MM bonus if he plays 70 games, but that seems unthinkable now, especially in light of the new revelations. Waiters is signed through the end of next season and is owed a total of $24.75MM.
In the latest chapter of what’s been a troubling season for Dion Waiters, the Heat swingman reportedly suffered a seizure after the team plane landed in Los Angeles on Thursday night.
As first reported by South Florida Fox Sports Radio host Andy Slater (Twitter links), Waiters suffered a “medical emergency” on the flight. Slater noted that Waiters overdosed on “gummies,” a term for an edible form of marijuana. Waiters was passed out when the plane landed and suffered the seizure once he was awoken, Slater added.
Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel confirmed that Waiters fell ill on that Thursday night flight. Winderman mentioned that its unclear whether or not Slater’s report of “gummies” was referencing marijuana but they are easily accessible in Denver, where the Heat began a three-game road trip against the Nuggets.
The Heat have not confirmed any of these reports outside of listing Waiters as unavailable for Friday’s loss to the Lakers due to “illness,” without further specification.
Waiters, 27, was expected to be a key contributor for Miami this season but instead has yet to suit up. It all started with a one-game suspension ahead of the club’s season opener in late October.
“There were a number of unacceptable incidents this week, culminating with his unprofessional conduct on the bench last night,” team president Pat Riley said at the time. “As a consequence, I feel we had to suspend him.”
The issue proved to be a heated conversation with head coach Erik Spoelstra over Waiters’ playing time. He played for just 10 minutes during the Heat’s final preseason game, which led to the blowup. Following the suspension, Waiters was critical of the team and Spoelstra on social media, commenting on one Instagram post, “I would win if I had Bron & Wade plus Bosh.”
Since then, Waiters has been active for a few of the Heat’s games and been a regular at shootaround, However, he has yet to play in a regular-season game and has not been on the bench for a single game. On Friday, we relayed uncertainty around Waiters’ status with the team.
After this latest development, Waiters’ personal health and well being will be at the forefront of the team’s concerns. However, it’s fair to wonder if Waiters — who has two years and $25MM left on his deal — will ever play for the Heat again.