Heat power forward Josh McRoberts strained his back the first day of training camp and also injured his surgically repaired toe, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra revealed Tuesday.
“He still was dealing with his toe at that time and he was very excited in camp and came out all guns blazing,” Spoelstra said. “So, we want to make sure we’re progressing him. Particularly after the summer he had.”
The injuries have been a point of growing frustration for McRoberts, who is projected as the Heat’s starting power forward when he’s cleared to play. Spoelstra still doesn’t know if McRoberts will be available for the season opener, and McRoberts conceded Tuesday that he knew before his surgery that the recovery time for his left great toe had the potential to bleed into the regular season.
McRoberts had bone spurs cleaned out of his toe this summer after a successful season with the Charlotte Bobcats. He played well at times against the Heat in the first round of the 2014 playoffs, but his most memorable play from that series was elbowing LeBron James in the throat. Hoping to keep James in Miami, the Heat signed McRoberts to a four-year deal.
McRoberts said Tuesday that his back is no longer injured, but he doesn’t know when he’ll be cleared to play. Chris Bosh noted Monday that McRoberts injured himself on the first day of training camp and has been out ever since.
“Day by day, that’s how we’re taking it,” Spoelstra said. “He’s able to do more each day. I know he’s getting antsy, but we want to make sure that we’re taking it step by step.”
McRoberts missed his fourth-straight preseason game Tuesday. The Heat has envisioned a role for him similar to the flex-four position manned by Boris Diaw in San Antonio, but all that is on hold. Bosh said Monday the Heat’s plans for McRoberts are a good “theory,” but it doesn’t mean anything if McRoberts doesn’t practice with the team.
With Spoelstra changing his starting lineup and rotation from game to game so far this preseason, it’s clear at this point that McRoberts’ absence stunted the usefulness of the Heat’s training camp.
“We really don’t know what lineup we’re going to go with right now, so it’s still some experimental things going on with us,” center Udonis Haslem said Monday. “The most important thing now is we continue to learn. Coach will figure out the lineups and rotations and stuff like that, but the majority of teams right now already have that starting lineup, and have that first five guys they know they’re going with. We’re still trying to figure it out, but I’m encouraged by the way we come in and practice and listen and make improvements.”
Bosh called rookie forward James Ennis “a diamond in the rough,” after Monday morning’s shoot-around session, but the Heat’s All-Star center also said he’s still not calling Ennis by his first name.
“Just Rook,” Bosh said.
Buzz has grown around Ennis during the preseason, but Bosh is tempering expectations. Ennis’ progress will be slow this season, Bosh said.
“It’s a continuous quest,” Bosh said. “I’m not really sure he can help us out now, but he’s going to get better and what he’s going to be able to do is going to be huge compared to what he’s doing now, so we just need him to continue to grow and continue to learn, and just improve day by day.”
Spoelstra said Ennis’ energy level on the court could make up for his lack of experience this season.
“He’s a high-motor energy player, a lot of activity,” Spoelstra said. “Those players tend to be able to play with any rotation. That’s great point for everybody.
“You play with activity, you play with effort, you do it consistently, sometimes that can transcend the things you might not have experience or knowledge of right now.”