Miami Heat

Heat welcome back pair from injured list. The question now: How long will Waiters be out?

Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra talks with guard Dion Waiters during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors at the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Sunday, December 3, 2017.
Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra talks with guard Dion Waiters during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors at the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Sunday, December 3, 2017. dsantiago@miamiherald.com

The injury-plagued Miami Heat welcomed back point guard Goran Dragic and forward James Johnson to the rotation Saturday night against the New Orleans Pelicans while Dion Waiters, who sprained his left ankle early in Friday night’s win over the Dallas Mavericks, walked around on crutches.

Waiters missed the final 13 games of last season with a badly sprained left ankle. But coach Erik Spoelstra said x-rays and an MRI performed Saturday morning on the ankle were negative and the team will evaluate him day-to-day.

“It’s swollen. He’s dealing with pain. So we don’t have a time table right now,” Spoelstra said of Waiters, who prior to Saturday’s game hadn’t missed a game yet this season due to injury (he missed two in November for the birth of his daughter).

“We’ll just go through the process of trying to get his ankle feeling better and doing the rehab, doing the corrective exercises and taking the next step. If you watch the film he just rolled it. It could have happened with his right ankle. So it’s not related [to his previous injury] other than the fact that ankle has given him some problems over his career. That’s not unusual when you sprain an ankle. Sometimes you can do that one repeatedly.”

Johnson, who missed three consecutive games with right ankle bursitis, was not in the Heat’s starting lineup with Dragic, who had missed three consecutive games with a sprained ligament in his left elbow. But the return of both players was obvioiusly welcomed with open arms for the Heat, which has seven players combine to miss 88 games over the first two months of the season.

Johnson said his return was partially motivated because he was feeling better and also because the Heat needed his help in the frontcourt against New Orleans’ All-Star frontcourt of Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins.

“Doc had some good things to say and it gave me a lot of confidence to go out there and push it,” Johnson said. “I mean if you ask any of the guys... there’s a lot of lingering discomfort, pain around this team. So it’s take it however your threshold of pain can last.”

Asked if he would be limited Johnson said: “The limitation call is all on Coach Spo, you know. I'm all 10 toes down, ready to go to war with my guys.

▪ Center Hassan Whiteside, meanwhile, missed his 18th game of the season and 13th in a row with a bone bruise in his left knee.

“He’s been working out twice a day,” Spoelstra said. “One workout is always a non-impact, full conditioning workout either on the bike or in the pool. Then the last few handful of days he’s been doing courtwork and he’s been making a lot of progress.”

▪ Forward Justise Winslow, who has been out since Dec. 13 with a left knee strain, missed his sixth consecutive game Saturday. Spoelstra said there is still not timetable for his return.

“He’ll do a lot of pool work and bike work right now,” Spoelstra said. “We’ll reevaluate [him Sunday] and see if we can scale that up.”

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