Hassan Whiteside’s troublesome left knee, which caused him to miss his seventh consecutive game Wednesday night and 12th game overall this season, is feeling better according to coach Erik Spoelstra. But there’s still no timetable, Spoelstra said, as far as when the Miami Heat will get its starting center back.
Two weeks ago, the team said Whiteside would be out at least one to two weeks while rehabbing. Before Wednesday’s game against the Trail Blazers, Spoelstra said Whiteside has more hurdles to cross before he gets back to action.
“I gave a timetable that we would evaluate [him] when we came home,” Spoelstra said. “There is no timetable [for a return]. Let’s make no assumptions about that. He’s doing a lot better. He’s been working out two, sometimes three times a day. A lot of corrective work, a lot of lifting, a lot of conditioning. He will get evaluated again [Wednesday night] by Dr. [Harlan] Selesnick and then we’ll put together the next stage of his plan [Thursday].”
Whiteside, who has averaged 14.9 points, 12.7 rebounds and 1.6 rebounds in 15 starts this season, banged knees with Magic center Nikola Vucevic on opening night. Whiteside missed the next five games before returning to action.
He then sustained a bone bruise in the same knee in a different spot in the Heat’s win over the Celtics on Nov. 22. Less than a week later, the pain became too much to deal with and Whiteside was sidelined.
The Heat returned home from its three-game roadtrip early Tuesday morning and Spoelstra said he saw Whiteside at a team party later that night before speaking with him again on Wednesday.
“I was in constant touch with him on the road,” Spoelstra said. “I was really encouraged after the second day when he said he had worked out three times. That was by the time I texted him after our San Antonio game. He had worked out three times that day. The next time I connected with him he said he didn’t have any soreness. That wasn’t a practice. It was more conditioning, corrective exercises and pool work and some bike work. But that’s a good step.”
The next step for Whiteside will be getting through practices. Spoelstra said Whiteside’s evaluation Wednesday night with Dr. Selesnick would “determine if he’s ready for more courtwork, practice.”
Would one good practice suffice for Whiteside to be cleared?
“If not more than that,” Spoelstra said. “He’s going to need to be where we monitor him so he gets multiple days on the court. A full practice? I don’t know. There’s going to have to be some stages of court work where he builds up [before he returns].”
▪ Tyler Johnson missed only his second game of the season on Wednesday with a migraine. After a rough start to the season, Johnson was averaging 16.2 points per game and shooting 59 percent from the field over his last six games.