ORLANDO Life after Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh officially began Wednesday night with Dion Waiters and Luke Babbitt manning the future Hall of Famers’ old spots at shooting guard and power forward in the Heat’s starting lineup.
While coach Erik Spoelstra prefers to build consistency with his starting lineups instead of getting into the habit of rotating different players in and out, odds are the lineup he trotted out against the Magic — which included point guard Goran Dragic, forward Justise Winslow and center Hassan Whiteside — will change as the season progresses.
“We actually feel comfortable right now with guys playing in roles where they should feel comfortable and help the team, but I don’t feel everything has to be absolute right now,” Spoelstra said of his lineup before Wednesday’s game.
What is certain is Spoelstra’s desire to get at least one established three-point shooting threat on the floor in his starting lineup to help spread the floor for Dragic and Whiteside.
Babbitt missed four games in the preseason with a tight groin but also shot over 40 percent from three-point range during the preseason. Until guards Josh Richardson (knee) and Wayne Ellington (bruised quad) return from injuries, Babbitt, a career 40.3 percent three-point shooter, is the only established three-point threat available who will command respect from opposing defenses, helping spread the floor.
Veteran point guard Beno Udrih, whom the Heat waived on Saturday, was quickly picked up off the wire by the Detroit Pistons on Monday, alleviating Miami from its $1.55 million salary obligation to him.
With starter Reggie Jackson (thumb, knee) expected to miss another four to six weeks, Udrih will serve as the Pistons’ backup point guard early in the season. Dragic, a fellow Slovenian, said Wednesday he was very happy to see his close friend get a shot to play.
“He was a great, great teammate who helped a lot with the young guys,” Dragic said. “He gave us a lot of experience. But we talk every day and he’s happy over there, and I’m happy for him. Hopefully, he’s going to be injury free and have a good season.”
In the end, Dragic said the Heat’s up-tempo style probably wasn’t a good fit for Udrih.
“If you ask him he would have probably liked to stay in Miami. He liked it here,” Dragic said. “But I feel like style-wise, we want to play a little bit faster and maybe that’s not his strength. I feel like he’s going to do well in Detroit.”
Udrih thanked the Heat and Miami fans for supporting him with a post on Instagram. He only played 36 games with the Heat after being acquired from Memphis in a trade for Mario Chalmers.
▪ Point guard Briante Weber, also released Saturday by the Heat, signed a D-League contract Wednesday to stay with the Heat’s affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, according to D-League Digest.
Weber signed a partially guaranteed three-year contract with the Heat this summer, making it more than enticing to stick with Miami even though he was disappointed not to make the team.
▪ Spoelstra joked Monday that the chemistry between Dragic and Waiters has been improving so much, “Dion is learning some Slovenian, too.”
Dragic said Wednesday he’s actually teaching Winslow his native tongue. “He knows how to count until five in Slovenian,” Dragic said of Winslow.
Winslow, 20, counted to five in Slovenian for the amusement of the media. “Good job, Justise,” Dragic said.
▪ Rodney McGruder, who earned the Heat’s last roster spot, made his NBA debut when he replaced Waiters with 1:41 left in the first half as the fourth player off the bench. McGruder said he had a close childhood friend and his family there to support him.
On Friday, when the Heat play its home opener, the 25-year-old former D-League guard said his brother, sister and cousin will be at AmericanAirlines Arena to cheer him on.
His teammates are helping him get his family tickets, McGruder said.