Miami Heat

With two players injured, Heat remains shorthanded but help’s on the way

Miami’s Hassan Whiteside, center, Tyler Johnson (8) and Justise Winslow (20) watch during the second half of the Heat’s game against Charlotte on Dec. 1.
Miami’s Hassan Whiteside, center, Tyler Johnson (8) and Justise Winslow (20) watch during the second half of the Heat’s game against Charlotte on Dec. 1. AP

Hassan Whiteside did court work in practice Thursday for the first time since he began rehabbing his injured knee over the past two weeks.

Whiteside, however, will not play against the Hornets on Friday night as Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said he and forward Justise Winslow (strained knee) will not travel with the team to Charlotte.

“[Whiteside] was doing work before and after practice,” Spoelstra said of Whiteside who was seen participating in layup drills as well as some drills in the paint while working with Heat assistant coach Juwan Howard and team executive Alonzo Mourning.

“This is his first court work and it’s good to obviously see him out here, but we’ll evaluate him after today and see if he can do more.”

Whiteside was cleared to work out for the first time after meeting with team physician Dr. Harlan Selesnick the night before, a meeting which Spoelstra acknowledged as a positive step in his rehab process.

Whiteside is expected to miss his eighth consecutive game Friday, and 13th so far this season.

Spoelstra said prior to Wednesday night’s loss to Portland that there’s no timetable for his return. The Heat’s game against the Hornets is the first of a back-to-back as it hosts the Clippers on Saturday.

Whiteside, who averaged 14.9 points, 12.7 rebounds and 1.6 rebounds in 15 starts this season, originally hurt himself when he banged knees with Magic center Nikola Vucevic in the Heat’s season-opener Oct. 18 which led to a five-game absence.

Whiteside sustained a bone bruise in the same knee in a different spot in the Heat’s win over the Celtics on Nov. 22 and was sidelined again following the Heat’s loss in Cleveland on Nov. 28.

Spoelstra gave an update on Hassan Whiteside and Justise Winslow as the team prepares to face Charlotte on the road.

Spoelstra said Winslow is staying in Miami in order to get treatment for his strained left knee, which limited him against the Blazers.

Winslow will be re-evaluated as well upon the Heat’s return from Charlotte.

It’s unclear how Winslow hurt his left knee even though he said he banged his right knee with another player in the Heat’s game against the Nets on Dec. 9 while setting a screen for Wayne Ellington.

Without the two, the Heat could be forced to play a short rotation again as it did when it played just a seven-man rotation with Winslow out.

On the plus side for Miami, Tyler Johnson, who missed Wednesday’s game with a migraine, fully participated in practice and expects to play against the Hornets.

“I mean, we’ve dealt with it a lot last year,” Johnson said about being shorthanded. “It’s not as new as it might seem. Obviously, we’re going to miss those guys. We’d rather have them in the lineup, but for the guys who are here, it’s nothing new as far as playing shorthanded.”

Johnson missed Wednesday’s game with a migraine but practiced Thursday will be ready to go when Heat plays Hornets on Friday in Charlotte.

The Heat is dealing with injuries again this season much as it did last year when Miami players missed a combined NBA-leading 328 games because of injury counting Chris Bosh, who missed the entire season due to his blood-clot issues.

“Maybe it’s a little less frustrating because the record is a little bit different than when we were going through it last year, but at the same time, yeah, because you know how hard some of these guys have worked,” Johnson said. “Not only on their body, but on their game, so it’s frustrating from that aspect.”

SKILLED COMBO

Spoelstra put both of his healthy centers — rookie Bam Adebayo and Kelly Olynyk — on the floor together Wednesday.

Although it was only for 10 minutes, Spoelstra said it’s a combination that he may explore again or employ something similar with either of the two and Whiteside once he returns.

“They’re both skilled, that helps,” Spoelstra said. “Kelly can play beyond the three-point line and play off the elbow and handoffs and pick and rolls and Bam can do the same. Might not stretch to the three-point line but we feel very comfortable throwing the ball in the elbow area or in the post and that he can make a play for the team.”

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