The Miami Heat kicked off the new year Sunday night against the Detroit Pistons much the same way most of November and December of 2016 went for them – playing shorthanded because of injuries.
Goran Dragic sat out for the second game in a row and for the third time in the past week because of ongoing back soreness, Justise Winslow was shelved by a stinger in his right shoulder, and center Hassan Whiteside missed his first game of the season after being poked in his right eye late in Friday’s loss at Boston.
“He's pretty sensitive to light,” coach Erik Spoelstra said pregame of Whiteside, who saw an eye specialist in South Florida on Saturday and has a bruised retina. “[Goggles] might be something down the line [he needs]. But right now his eyes are too sensitive [to play].”
Winslow, who already missed 16 games earlier this season because of a sore left wrist, said he too was hurt late against the Celtics when he got tangled up on the final play of the game with center Al Horford.
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“I’m not too worried about it,” Winslow said. “I should be fine.”
Dragic, who aggravated his back Thursday in Charlotte and sat out Friday in Boston, said he feels much better than he did a few days ago and anticipates he will be with the team when it opens a six-game road trip Tuesday in Phoenix.
“Today I was doing a little bit of weights and I was running in the pool, so it’s getting looser definitely,” Dragic said before joking he had to play against the Suns, his former team. “I’m going on the trip. We’ll see. Day-by-day, but the last two days were good for me. A lot of improvement, so I’m hoping.”
With three starters out, Miami (10-24) had nine players in uniform to face Detroit Sunday and started its 14th different lineup of the season: Josh Richardson, Wayne Ellington, Rodney McGruder, Luke Babbitt and Willie Reed.
Richardson and McGruder were the only regular starters in the group.
WAITERS ON MEND
Dion Waiters, who hasn’t played since Nov. 26 because of a small groin tear, said Sunday it looks “real promising” he’ll be with the team on its next road trip.
“I won’t know until I actually get out there, but it feels good as far as me just working out full speed and not holding back on anything,” Waiters said of his groin. “It’s up to me just to see how I move laterally like just chasing guys and things like that. I haven’t done that. You don’t get a chance to practice around here.”
Spoelstra said he’s hoping Waiters will make the trip, but was non-committal.
“Guys may start the trip not traveling and then [meet us],” he said. “I hope [Waiters] will travel with us [Monday]. But we’ll put together a program based on who can get the most treatment, the most work when they’ll be with us.”
How sensitive does Waiters have to be with his groin once he returns?
“I just got to be honest,” he said. “I think just early in the year when I played with it, like 10 games, kind of just ignoring it, to be honest. I just kept playing and it made it worse, I guess. That’s what it was, just telling them the truth of how I really feel and just being smart about the whole situation so I don’t get in this situation again.”