The Heat’s injury situation has reached the dire stage, with Miami having only nine players available for Tuesday’s game against the Knicks and this week’s three-game road trip.
Coach Erik Spoelstra announced before Tuesday’s Knicks game that Dion Waiters (groin tear), Justise Winslow (sprained wrist), Josh Richardson (sprained ankle), James Johnson (strained rotator cuff) and Luke Babbitt (hip flexor) not only wouldn’t play Tuesday but also wouldn’t travel for a road trip that includes Atlanta on Wednesday, Cleveland on Friday and Chicago on Saturday. All five will work with the Heat’s staff in Miami while the Heat is away.
Though Spoelstra said Winslow is able to shoot and is “getting close” to returning, his absence will end up stretching at least 15 games.
Waiters said he hasn’t begun running yet but his groin is “way better” and he hopes to play next week.
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Spoelstra said he intended to use all nine available players. NBA rules require teams to suit up at least eight.
Teams can keep no more than 15 players, and the Heat must keep Chris Bosh on the roster, for now, as part of a process designed to clear his salary off Miami’s cap no earlier than February.
• Spoelstra, asked about Knicks president Phil Jackson saying that LeBron James tried to impose control on travel issues during his Heat tenure: “I honestly think he gets bored and likes to throw stuff out there at get everybody all fired up.”
▪ Not only is Wayne Ellington giving the Heat an offensive boost (15 points per game, entering Tuesday) since returning from a quad contusion to start the season, but he’s also diversifying the Heat’s attack.
“In the last five, six games our [offensive] menu is as diverse as it’s been all year,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said when asked what Ellington has brought the Heat offensively.
“We’re not only pick-and-roll dominant, we now have the catch-and-shoot package with him. Now our post-up game with Hassan [Whiteside] is becoming more developed each game as well. All of it adds to the diversity of your offense. If we only come at teams with one thing, no matter how dynamic you can be with it, teams will adapt and adjust and defend the heck out of that.
“I don’t see it as a coincidence our offensive numbers and uptick has gone up with his catch-and shoot-package, with Goran [Dragic] playing at a high level, and with Hassan also helping out with more post-ups.”
Ellington’s 15 point scoring average through four games is well above his 7.2 career average). He entered Tuesday’s game shooting 51.1 percent from the field - well above his 41.3 career average.
After signing him last summer, the Heat told Ellington to lose 15 to 20 pounds and drop his body fat percentage, which is now down to 7 percent.
“That’s the standard here so I put that extra work in, running and in the weight room, doing cardio and it’s paying off for me big time,” Ellington said. “I can be out there longer. I’m more efficient. The better shape I am, the harder I am to guard, the better defender I am. It’s completed my all-around game.”
• Now cast as a starter at power forward, Josh McRoberts is working to make the most of his latest opportunity to salvage a disappointing and injury-plagued Heat tenure.
After making eight of the first 36 shots he took this season, McRoberts scored a season-high 13 points in Saturday’s loss in Portland and had made 10 of his past 19 shots entering Tuesday’s Knicks game.
“He brings so much to our team with his voice, his communication,” Spoelstra said. “He’s a veteran, savvy player. If I need to play him at the four or the five, he can play either. But I think this particular group, having an experienced veteran player, that makes every guy better.
“Richardson said McRoberts “is like one of our most vocal people on our team, just getting the calls. He’s like a point guard on offense who is 6-11.”
For an update on the Heat’s soon-to-be expanding trade options, and the Chris Bosh situation, please click here.
Manny Navarro contributed to this report
UP NEXT: HEAT AT HAWKS
When: 7:30 p.m., Philips Arena
TV, radio: Fox Sports Sun; 790 The Ticket; WAQI 710 AM (Spanish)
Series: Heat leads, 60-48.
Scouting report: The Hawks beat Miami, 93-90, on Nov. 15 at AmericanAirlines Arena, behind 18 from Dennis Schroder and 15 apiece from Paul Millsap at Tim Hardaway. Hassan Whiteside had 19 points and 25 rebounds for the Heat and Josh Richardson scored 19. … The Heat will have only nine players available.