Miami Heat

Hassan Whiteside ready, Josh Richardson out, Goran Dragic surprised by ejection

Heat’s Josh Richardson, left, takes the shot over Piston’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, right, during the first half of the Heat vs. Pistons game inside the American Airlines Arena on Sunday, January 1, 2017.
Heat’s Josh Richardson, left, takes the shot over Piston’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, right, during the first half of the Heat vs. Pistons game inside the American Airlines Arena on Sunday, January 1, 2017. cjuste@miamiherald.com

It’s seems like every time the Miami Heat gets a player back from the injured list, another takes his place.

With center Hassan Whiteside no longer seeing double and expected to return from a four-game absence for Sunday afternoon’s game against the Clippers, the Heat had another man go down Saturday when guard Josh Richardson left practice early to go have an MRI performed on his left ankle, which a team spokesman said had been bothering him for a couple days. According to ESPN sources late Saturday, the MRI came back negative and Richardson is day to day.

Richardson already missed all of training camp and the first four games of the regular season recovering from a sprained MCL in his right knee, and then another six games with a sprained right ankle. He left the gym at the Winward School in the Mar Vista neighborhood of west Los Angeles in a walking boot, accompanied by trainer Jay Sabol.

“It’s a soft-tissue injury right now,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “They took an X-ray last night after the game and that was fine. But he is sore, so we’re going to take him to get an MRI, cross our fingers. And once we get the results from that, we’ll go from there. Hopefully it’s nothing.

“He’s in some pain right now, so I don’t know if he’ll play [Sunday],” Spoelstra continued. “But let’s just hope that it’s not anything where he’s going to be out for an extended period of time.”

Richardson, the Heat’s second-round pick last season, has started 11 consecutive games. He had started to turn the corner a bit after struggling with shot at the start of the season.

On Thursday, forward Justise Winslow, the Heat’s first-round pick last season, had season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Counting Chris Bosh, who isn’t expected to play this season, and Josh McRoberts, who has a stress fracture in his foot, the Heat have three players out with long-term injuries.

If Richardson joins that list, the Heat could qualify for the NBA hardship waiver, which would open up a 16th roster spot. But that requires at least four players to be injured at the same time for an extended amount of time.

DRAGIC ‘SURPRISED’ BY EJECTION

Goran Dragic and the Heat still aren’t clear as to why Dragic was ejected in the third quarter of Friday night’s 127-100 loss to the Lakers after Jordan Clarkson shoved Dragic in the back, and then smacked the Heat’s point guard with a forearm to the chin after he turned around.

“I was surprised, if I’m honest,” Dragic said of his second career ejection. “He was the aggressor and I got ejected.

“I asked the refs, ‘How did I get ejected? I didn’t even swing or punch.’ And he just told me ‘Dragi, I'm not going to talk about that. It’s a done deal.’ That was it. I just turned around [and went to the locker room]. What could I do?”

Clarkson accused Dragic of elbowing him in the chest.

“The video don’t lie. I didn’t do that,” Dragic said. “If I [did] that, I would say I did it. I’m an honest guy and the video don’t lie.”

What did Dragic think when Clarkson threw up his fists in a boxing stance?

“Nothing,” Dragic said. “I was in plenty of fights. I was not scared. It is what it is. I didn’t want to fight. It just was an emotional reaction for me, but that’s it.”

Spoelstra said he was still upset about the ejection a day later.

“We don’t get the explanation. We don’t understand it,” he said. “There was one guy who threw an elbow, that put his fist up to fight and we’re the only team that didn’t end up with free throws, and we end up losing our best player. It doesn’t make sense. But what’s done is done. The other side of it, it had a big impact on the game.”

▪ Whiteside, the league’s leading rebounder, didn’t practice Saturday with his teammates for personal reasons, Spoelstra said. But it was an excused absence.

“He got a great workout in [Friday] before the game, got a great workout in with the coaching staff this morning,” Spoelstra said. “We’ll start him and then we’ll just have to see how many minutes he can go. He’s been out for a while, so I don't know how long he can go from there. But when we get him back and comfortable as quickly as he possibly can.”

▪ The Heat confirmed it has guaranteed Rodney McGruder’s contract for the remainder of the season. The team had until 5 p.m. Saturday to do so.

▪ Spoelstra said Willie Reed’s stellar play while Whiteside has been out “definitely earned him more minutes, more opportunities.”

▪ After giving up a season-high 68 points in the paint and a season-high 127 points in regulation to the Lakers, Spoelstra said the team didn’t bother watching film to discuss the defensive breakdowns. “We didn't even talk about it, we just drilled it,” Spoelstra said. “We got right back to the basics.”

 

Sunday: Heat at Clippers

When/where: 12:30 p.m., Staples Center, Los Angeles

TV/radio: SUN; WAXY 790, WAQI 710 (Spanish)

Series: Heat lead 33-23

Scouting report: Los Angeles squeezed out a 102-98 win in Miami on Dec. 16 in the first meeting. Blake Griffin played in that game, but has been out since Dec. 20 following arthroscopic surgery on his right knee and won't play Sunday.

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