Injuries forced the Heat to give Dion Waiters his first playing time of this season Friday, and he responded with a performance that might result in more opportunities, writes David Wilson of The Miami Herald. Waiters had 14 points and four rebounds in 18 minutes and nearly helped Miami pull off a comeback against the Clippers. He blocked a pair of late shots, then hit a 3-pointer with 34 seconds left that brought the Heat to within three points.
“He’s got big cajones, man, and you can definitely see it in his swagger,” Bam Adebayo said. “That’s what Dion’s all about: making the big shots, big plays and he’s built for those moments.”
Waiters’ chance came because Miami was short on wing players with Kendrick Nunn and Goran Dragic sidelined with injuries and Jimmy Butler leaving the game with a sprained ankle. There had been speculation that Waiters may not play at all this season because of off-the-court issues that included three separate suspensions. His contract, which carries a $12.65MM salary for next season, was considered virtually untradeable, and the Heat reportedly decided against trying to have it voided only because they didn’t want a confrontation with the players’ union.
Waiters now has a chance to escape the doghouse in Miami after learning that he would be active for Friday’s game when coach Erik Spoelstra sent him a FaceTime message earlier in the day. After the game, Spoelstra called him a “fearless” player who embraces the opportunity to make big plays. Waiters didn’t speak to the media, but is expected to be available following tomorrow’s practice.
“He definitely has been putting the work in behind the scenes. He has done his best to be a true professional,” Meyers Leonard said. “Had K-Nunn and Goran not been out, I don’t know if Dion comes in, but that’s part of being in the NBA. People get hurt, that’s when people get opportunities. People don’t play well and that’s when people get opportunities.”