The Miami Heat played the Orlando Magic Tuesday night without two of its regular starters.
Center Hassan Whiteside returned home to North Carolina to be with his family following the death of his great grandmother, and forward Justise Winslow, the only Heat starter to play in Miami’s first five preseason games, sat out to rest his sore back.
Whiteside will rejoin the Heat on Thursday when the team plays at Charlotte, coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Winslow said he exchanged text messages with Whiteside.
“He says he’s doing pretty well,” Winslow said. “We’ll see him tomorrow [when the team arrives in Charlotte]. So, hopefully he and his family are doing well with the loss.”
Winslow, meanwhile, said he would like to return in time to play in Miami’s two final preseason games, but wants to make sure he’s ready for the season opener at Orlando on Oct. 26.
“Its fine,” Winslow said of his back. “I think I just slept wrong. But it’s loosening up every day. [It’s] still preseason, so I don’t want to push it too hard or over stress it.”
Forward Luke Babbitt, meanwhile, missed his third consecutive game with a tight groin. Spoelsta said Babbitt went through shoot-around at full speed Monday and was pushing to play, but team trainer Jay Sabol wanted to take a cautious approach.
Spoelstra said he feels like he’s seen enough of his team through its first five preseason games to not have to worry so much about studying rotations and instead can put health and well-being at the forefront of the team’s concerns.
The Heat wraps up the preseason with back-to-back games Thursday at Charlotte and at home Friday against the Philadelphia 76ers.
“I’d like to get guys as many reps to build that continuity, but I don’t I feel like I need to have an official dress rehearsal,” Spoelstra said of how he’ll handle the rotation with a couple players dealing with injuries. “I just want to continue to have us look at things and move forward.”
BEEFING UP SIOUX FALLS
A day after waiving stretch forward Stefan Jankovic and adding shot-blocking center Vashil Fernandez to the preseason roster, the Heat made another move on Tuesday by waiving center Keith Benson and signing former Trail Blazers guard Luis Montero.
Both moves were made with the intention of helping beef up the franchise’s NBDL affiliate the Sioux Falls Skyforce.
By picking up Fernandez and Montero, the Heat can assign both of them as well as Jankovic and Benson to the Skyforce’s roster since all four will have spent the majority of the preseason with the Heat and Miami would their affiliate rights, Heat general manager Andy Elisburg explained.
The only way the Heat would lose out on Benson or Jankovic is if they make an NBA roster for another team after this weekend’s round of roster cuts league wide, which is unlikely for two undrafted rookies.
All NBA teams must trim their rosters to the regular-season limit of 15 by next Monday.
Fernandez led the NCAA in blocks last season at Valparaiso. Montero played in 12 regular season games and six playoff games with the Trail Plazers last season. He played in four games (all starts) in the NBDL last year and averaged 16.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.75 blocks, 1.50 steals and 28.3 minutes while shooting 41.2 percent from the field, 38.5 percent from three-point range and 78.3 percent from the foul line.
“Montero is one of these long athletic combo wing uys that we have had success with,” Spoelstra said. “We were actually surprised he was available and wanted to take advantage of that.”