The Miami Heat do not have an All-Star representative this season, but the franchise does have the league’s Eastern Conference Player of the Week.
Dion Waiters earned the honor Monday after he averaged 23.3 points, five assists, 4.5 rebounds and shot 48 percent from three-point range (12-of-25) over a 4-0 week whiched exted the Heat’s winning streak to a league-best seven games.
He posted a career-high 33 points in a win over Golden State and led the Heat to an 18-point fourth quarter rally in a win at Brooklyn last Wednesday. In both of those games, Waiters hit clutch shots late in the game to seal the victories.
“We don't take that kind of news for granted – even in a year like this,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We want our players to get better. We want them to push and be open-minded, to become something different. He’s really been working at it, working on trying to be more efficient, how to make more winning plays, learning how to finish better at the rim, learning ultimately how to impact winning better.
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“He played probably his most efficient basketball during that stretch, obviously those big shots at the end of a couple of games. But it was efficient basketball. He was making positive plays for the team on both ends. And you don't get those kind of rewards if you don't go 4-0. They’re not giving them to teams that are 0-4 for the week.”
Waiters, 25, became only the third Heat player to earn the Playe of the Week honors since LeBron James returned to Cleveland in the summer of 2014 and the first for Miami since Dwyane Wade won it on Feb. 1 last season.
The Heat, which had a player earn the league’s player of the week honor 23 times during the Big Three era, has earned it only four times since James returned to Cleveland. Wade did it twice and Chris Bosh earned it once.
The Heat’s Goran Dragic was also nominated for the award this week along with Boston’s Isaiah Thomas, Indiana’s Paul George and Washington’s Bradley Beal and John Wall.
Waiters, who signed a two-year deal with the Heat last summer with a $3 million player option for next season, had not won the award his first five seasons in the league with Cleveland and Oklahoma City.
The team has begun selling t-shirts of Waiter’s big moment with the Heat when he struck a pose and crossed his arms after hitting the game-winning three-point shot against Golden State last week. The shirts are selling for $28.
HOT FROM THREE
Heading into Monday night’s game against Brooklyn, Miami had jumped from 26th in the league in three-point shooting accuracy (33.8 percent) to 22nd (35.1 percent) thanks to a league-best 42.4 shooting percentage over the last two weeks.
How has a team that shot so poorly the first half of the season suddenly found it’s stroke?
“Everything is better – shots, better spacing. We feel comfortable, know what we need to do on offense,” said point guard Goran Dragic, who is shooting 40.9 percent from beyond the arc for the season and 46.4 percent over the last two weeks.
A NEW TOLEDO FAN
Heat captain Udonis Haslem has long held an allegiance to the Miami Hurricanes even though he played basketball for the Florida Gators. But he’s going to make an exception to his Canes fandom on Sept. 23.
That’s when the Toledo Rockets come to town to face UM and Haslem’s eldest son will be suiting up for the opposing team. Kedonis Haslem, a three-star offensive lineman at nearby St. Thomas Aquinas, pledged late last week to sign a National Letter of Intent with Toledo this Wednesday, National Signing Day.
“At the end of the day, blood is always thicker than water,” a proud Haslem said Monday.
“It makes you feel like you did something right. To see something that he’s been working toward since he was 8-years old, to see him reach that goal, I’m happy for him. He’s a good kid. He deserves it. I’m looking forward to the next phase of his life and his career, and being a part of it, being able to guide him, and attend games and do whatever I can do to just make that situation the best possible. College is the best four years of your life.”