As disappointing as it was to blow a 19-point lead in Friday’s home opener to the Charlotte Hornets and then rally from 16 points down only to lose to unbeaten the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday night, coach Erik Spoelstra has seen positive development through the Heat’s first three games.
Hassan Whiteside has shown growth as a franchise player, creating his own shots on offense while maintaining excellent rim protection on the defensive end.
Justise Winslow, while still not consistently hitting open jump shots just yet, has handled multiple roles well, including backup point-guard duties and tough defensive assignments.
Dion Waiters’ play has been far more underwhelming statistically. But even Miami’s coach can find a silver lining with that, noting how the 24-year-old shooting guard is being aggressive the way coaches are asking him to be.
“I’m being aggressive, and I’m just not getting any calls,” said Waiters, who is shooting 31.6 percent from the field, scoring only 10.3 points per game and has as many turnovers (10) as he has assists (10) entering Tuesday night’s game at AmericanAirlines Arena against the Sacramento Kings.
“Coach is drawing it on the board, showing how many paint touches I’ve got,” Waiters continued. “But I’m only getting to the line one time, maybe twice a game.
“You’ve got guys out here going to the line 12, 14 times a game. I guess I’ve just got to continue to earn respect. I don’t know what else to do because you can’t tell me when I’m going to the hole I’m not getting fouled. We have video of it.”
Waiters, who struggled mightily against the Spurs, finishing 3 of 9 from the field with six of the Heat’s 12 turnovers, has drawn fouls only three times on his 30 drives toward the basket.
Among the top-10 players in the league with the most drives to the basket through the first week of the regular season, only teammate Goran Dragic has drawn fewer fouls with two.
Although he was second only to Russell Westbrook last year on Oklahoma City’s team when it came to drives to the basket per game (4.9), Waiters has been much more aggressive with the Heat. He’s just not finishing at the rim.
He’s shooting 33.3 percent, scoring 3.3 points and collecting points on only 33.3 percent of his drives.
Last year, Waiters shot 42.7 percent, scored 2.6 points and collected points on 52.5 percent of his drives.
Dwyane Wade, by comparison, whom Waiters has obviously replaced in Miami’s starting lineup, shot 50.5 percent, scored 5.8 points and scored on 68.1 percent of his 8.5 drive attempts per game for the Heat.
“I’m getting to the rack, just not getting the calls, and I’m having to throw it up,” Waiters said.
Spoelstra said the turnovers by Waiters on Sunday weren’t all his fault.
“We want to put him in areas where he can be aggressive and he can be himself,” Spoelstra said. “We also want our spacing setup in that he has options if he gets stuck. Good defenses take away your initial attacks a lot of times.
“The discipline to our spacing will really help some of those turnovers.”
According to the NBA’s stat tracking system, Waiters is only 6 of 20 on shots within 10 feet of the basket this season, 1 of 6 on pullup jump shots and 5 of 11 on catch-and-shoots, which have all be three-point attempts. Waiters was better in the first two shooting areas last season, shooting 47.2 percent within 10 feet of the hoop and 33.2 percent on pullups.
“One thing about me, I don’t care about getting shots because I know I can get mine,” Waiters said.
“Like I said, I’m just frustrated. I’m tired of [officials] saying [after they see the video] they missed the call.”
▪ Guard Wayne Ellington said Monday the bruise on his right quad is the worst he has ever had. The last time he bruised a quad he said he missed two weeks.
Ellington still has not begun running and still has a noticeable limp.
Tuesday: Kings at Heat
When/where: 7:30 p.m., AmericanAirlines Arena, Miami
TV/radio: SUN; WAXY 790; WAQI 710 (Spanish)
Series: Heat leads 38-17
Scouting report: The Kings will be on the second night of a back-to-back having played in Orlando Monday night. The Heat has won four in a row in the series including 14 straight in Miami. Both Ellington (quad) and guard Josh Richardson (sprained MCL) remain out for the Heat.