Briante Weber was back inside AmericanAirlines Arena Wednesday, but it wasn’t the way he expected it to be.
Weber, who played for the Heat last season and spent training camp with the team before he was cut late in favor of Rodney McGruder, returned as a member of the Charlotte Hornets, the second NBA team he’s played with this season and the third 10-day contract he’s been on since leaving the Heat’s D-League affiliate, Sioux Falls, in early February.
“I am excited to play against them,” Weber said Wednesday morning after shootaround of the Heat. “It’s going to be the same thing as training camp. We’re just going to make each other better and just compete at the end of the day. I’m just going to try to do whatever I can do to help my team win. That’s all I’m here to do.”
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Tabbed the No. 1 prospect in the D-League earlier this season, Weber was hopeful the Heat would give him a call-up during the season. But once Miami was granted an extra roster spot back in January because of the number of injuries on the team, the Heat called up forward Okaro White instead. White played through two 10-day contracts before Miami signed him to a two-year deal.
At first, Weber said, he was disappointed and frustrated the Heat never called him up. But he later understood why Miami made the move considering the team was much deeper at guard than at forward. He said he’s since come to realize how much the Heat really cares for him – even after he turned them down and signed with Golden State.
“They were all for me going to Golden State,” Weber said. “This organization is a family organization. They all texted me and told me congratulations. Coach Spo talked to Steve Kerr and told him what kind of player I am, what type of person I am. He was just giving me all the praise and I appreciate him for doing that. Throughout this whole journey, Spo has been texting me, [assistant Dan Craig] has been texting me. Everybody has been texting me just telling me they’re looking out for me and wish the best for me.”
Weber, who averaged 16.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 7.4 assists and 3.3 steals in Sioux Falls, played in seven games with the Warriors where he averaged 1.7 points on 35.7 shooting in 6.6 minutes per game. He’s played just two minutes with the Hornets and his 10-day contract with the team ends after Wednesday’s game.
A league source said Weber remains hopeful he will continue with the Hornets beyond Wednesday’s game. The Heat, the source said, have shown no interest thus far in bringing him back this season. The Heat, which is expected to release Chris Bosh at some point to clear his $25 million cap hit for next season, would have to clear a roster spot to sign Weber.
Does Weber wish he could be back with the Heat?
“It's not so much him saying he wishes he was here, but he definitely says man I miss you all, stuff like that,” White said of Weber, his former teammate in Sioux Falls. “Like I said, we talk all the time. We were in Sioux Falls for those three months. So, we miss being around each other. He’s focused and trying to get to where he wants to get.”
A ‘6-4 version of UD’
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra continued the team’s push for Rodney McGruder to make one of the league’s All-Rookie teams on Wednesday with maybe his best compliment to the 25-year-old small forward.
“Along with Goran [Dragic] and Hassan [Whiteside] he’s anchored that starting unit,” Spoelstra said. “He’s been the more consistent guy in that unit in terms of games played and being available every single day and what he brings. He brings that toughness and the identity we have.
“How do we want to play? What [are] our habits? What’s our identity? That guy. That’s what it is. What is UD in terms of his meaning as a Miami Heat player and then culture, that’s him. Rodney is a 6-4 version of UD.”
McGruder said he was grateful for the compliment.
“I just think of Udonis just flying around the floor on defense,” he said. “Udonis making big shots, making plays for those teams in the Finals and playing great defense against Dirk [Nowitzki] in the Finals. I just think about all the big plays that Udonis made for the Heat and makes. That’s what I think of, inspiring plays like Coach [Octavio De La Grana] always talks about. Just the way he inspired the Big Three team. You heard what Shaq came out and said about him, that says a lot about Udonis. It’s an honor for coach to say that about me.”
▪ Spoelstra said guard Tyler Johnson (shoulder) and forwards Luke Babbitt (back soreness) and White (ankle) were probable to play against the Hornets Wednesday.
Forward James Johnson, however, remains questionable. Johnson went through shootaround, but is still ailing from the cut sustained on his right elbow from Saturday night’s win over Cleveland when Cavs guard Iman Shumpert chipped his front teeth with Johnson’s elbow.
“Right now it’s pain and mobility – mobilty probably more than anything,” Spoelstra said. “The swelling has gone down, too. He wasn’t able to shoot it much in shootaround, but he was able to go through shootaround. That was a good sign.”