So it wasn’t a troublesome left ankle that kept Dion Waiters out of the Heat’s starting lineup for the first time this season on Sunday. It was the birth of his first daughter.
Waiters, 25, flew home Saturday from Denver and was with his family for the birth of Dior Raina Waiters on Sunday morning. It’s something the Heat had been expecting to happen, coach Erik Spoelstra said, and planned for.
“The last week, 10 days, yeah, this was the target date,” Spoelstra said. “I hope everything goes well and we’ll be able to celebrate with Dion and his family and go from there.”
The Heat replaced Waiters in the starting lineup by giving Justise Winslow his first start of the season.
Spoelstra said he expects Waiters will rejoin the team before the end of Miami’s six-game road trip, but didn’t say when. The Heat play Monday night at defending champion Golden State.
Waiters has incentive to return quickly. If he plays in at least 70 games this season he’ll receive a $1.1 million bonus.
Clippers backup center Willie Reed made sure to pass by the Heat’s locker room Sunday morning to give a few of his former Heat teammates a hug including captain Udonis Haslem.
“I talk to him all the time, maybe like once a week on average, which is a good amount in season,” said Heat forward Okaro White, who walked around the Staples Center Sunday morning to go and seed Reed’s children. “That’s my guy. I’m here for him. It was cool seeing his kids and how much they got bigger over the year. Me and him we’re like brothers. So it’s good seeing him and I’m looking forward to him having a successful season.”
Reed shook hands with Heat reporters Sunday morning, but politely declined an interview.
Reed, 27, is actually averaging fewer minutes per game in Los Angeles (10.6) than he did with the Heat last season (14.5), but his production is relatively the same. He’s averaging 5.6 points, shooting 64.5 percent and reeling in 4.3 rebounds per game.
Reed averaged 5.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, and shot 56.8 percent in 71 games with Miami. As a fill-in starter, though, the 6-11, 245-pounder was exceptional. In five games with Whitesde out, Reed averaged 14.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and shot 68.6 percent from the field. His best game was a 22-point, 18-rebound effort in a Jan. 3 loss to the Suns.
Reed could have earned more money this season had he just opted to stay with the Heat. But because he believed he would command more money in free agency – with some advie from his agent – he tested the waters.
Reed ended up signing with the Clippers for the league minimum for a player with his experience ($1.5 million) on July 18. His contract with the Heat – had he opted in before June 29 – would have been the same. But the reason he’s earning less money this season is because California has a state income tax and Florida does not.
HEAT’S TURNAROUND IMPRESSED RIVERS
Clippers coach Doc Rivers though the Heat was in store for a long season last year after Los Angeles won both of its head-to-head meetings with Miami in the first half of the season. So, he was utterly impressed by Miami’s 30-11 second-half turnaround.
“Last year, that’s the best turnaround I may have ever seen in a team,” Rivers said. “We saw them early in the year and I remember telling you guys [the Miami media] you’re going to have a long year. That’s what it looked like. Now, they did have some injuries, but I’ve never seen a team’s spirit change that way where they became bad to good and then go 11-30 and then 30-11. That’s unheared of.”
Rivers, who had a rivalry with the Heat and coach Erik Spoelstra when Rivers coached the Celtics, said he’s always respected Spoelstra’s teams.
“His teams are always prepared,” Rivers said. “They always tend to play the right way. They’re all defensively disciplined. His team’s have great defensive discipline.”