The Miami Heat got back to work Tuesday morning after having two days off to welcome in the new year, and center Hassan Whiteside got back to wearing a protective brace on his troublesome left knee.
The Heat’s starting center, who missed 18 games with bone bruises to the knee, took the brace off after he went to the bench with 4:36 left in the opening quarter in Saturday’s win at Orlando and played without it for the rest of the game. But coach Erik Spoelstra said Whiteside will wear the brace going forward, calling it “non-negotiable” as the team tries to protect him from further injury.
“That’s not going to happen any more or he’s not going to be out there,” Spoelstra said of Whiteside, who finished with nine points, 13 rebounds, a career-high four assists and a season-high 10 screen assists. “He had discomfort [wearing it]. We expect that – just like a guy wearing an ankle brace or taped ankle. The first few times you do it it’s uncomfortable, it’s new. But we want to protect him. He’s going to wear it. That's non-negotiable.”
Whiteside played 29 minutes in Saturday’s game – the most he’s played in the three games since coming back from a 13-game absence. He said his knee feels better. So does his level of conditioning.
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“I’m glad coach left me out there for 29 minutes, 28 minutes,” said Whiteside, who has averaged 11 points, 9.7 rebounds, 0.3 blocks and 22.2 minutes per game since returning from injury. “I love to be out there more with my team.”
Whiteside said he would prefer not to wear a knee brace moving forward, but it’s not his choice.
“It’s extremely uncomfortable,” he said. “I felt fine [Saturday]. Them guys were moving and it was winning time, so I listened to my body.”
Whiteside said team doctors and trainers want him to wear the brace because it “takes pressure off” his knee.
Said Whiteside: “The doctor said give it a month or two and see how I feel.”
JJ COULD RETURN WEDNESDAY
Heat forward James Johnson, who has missed six of the Heat’s last seven games with right ankle bursitis, has been upgraded to questionable for Wednesday’s game at home against the Detroit Pistons (20-15).
Spoelstra said Dion Waiters (left ankle sprain) and Justise Winslow, who has missed nine straight games with a strained left knee remain out.
“JJ went through the majority of practice today,” Spoelstra said. “There’s no telling how he’ll feel [Wednesday] after treatment. Justise was doing some more work on the side, on the court, though, which is a good sign. Dion is doing all of his work off the court and everybody else is ready to go.”
NEW ADDITION PRACTICES
NEW ADDITION PRACTICES
So why did the Heat on Sunday sign 6-7 forward Derrick Jones Jr. to a two-way contract and release three-point specialist Matt Williams Jr.?
“It’s hard not to notice his athleticism and his explosiveness, his talent, all of those things are at an extremely high level,” Spoelstra said. “He’s young. It’s an opportunity to spend some time with a young player that has a lot of physical talent and see if we can help each other. We’re excited about it.
“We still want to develop Matt [Williams Jr.] in Sioux Falls. But [Jones Jr.’s] skills are a little bit more advanced at this point. We felt he was a little bit better fit for the two-way contract.”
Jones, the runner-up in the slam dunk contest last year, considers himself a defender first.
“That’s something that I harp on,” Jones said. “I want to be one of the top five defensive players in the league one day.”
▪ Spoelstra said he could sum up the first half of the season a lot of different ways, but the search for consistency remains the top priority moving forward.
“I could give you a whole list of what I’ve reviewed for the last three days, but it still comes down to consistency,” he said of the Heat, which has not won more than three games in a row and been higher than two games over .500 this season. “Playing our game, the identity we’ve created since training camp, doing it more often, regardless of who is in there – that’s the bottomline.”