Dion Waiters is expected to undergo season-ending surgery on his ailing left ankle after receiving second opinions from doctors in Los Angeles, Yahoo! Sports and ESPN reported Thursday evening.
The Heat’s starting shooting guard, who re-signed with Miami on a four-year, $52 million deal this summer, had been mulling the decision for several days according to an associate, who told The Herald Thursday evening Waiters had been leaning toward surgery but he hadn’t said if he had reached a final decision.
The Heat, which had not been trying to put any pressure on Waiters regarding his decision, chose not to comment on Yahoo!’s report and weren’t expected to at all on Thursday. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has declined comment on Waiters’ status for more than a week now.
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Waiters’ decision to have surgery is not surprising considering his long history of trouble with the ankle. He missed the final 13 games of last season with a sprain to the same ankle, but decided to bypass offseason surgery because he was a free agent at the time. He said back in September that surgery on the ankle would have sidelined him eight to 10 months.
Waiters played in 30 of the Heat’s first 32 games – missing two games for the birth of his daughter back in November – and then rolled the ankle badly driving to the basket early in a win over Dallas on Dec. 22. He hasn’t played since and has missed eight consecutive games. Waiters, 26, was in line to receive a $1.1 million bonus if he played in at least 70 games this season.
Waiters was exceptional late in games for the Heat this season, scoring 48 points in 48 clutch minutes, defined by the NBA as the final five minutes of games with a margin of five points or fewer.
But he had not been as efficient as he or the Heat would like for the most part, shooting 39.8 percent from the field, down from 42.4 percent last season. His three-point shooting percentage also dropped from 39.5 percent to 30.6 percent this season. His 2.3 turnovers per game are a career high. His 14.3 scoring average is down from 15.8 last season.
But he refused to use his ailing ankle as an excuse for his struggles and said his intention was to return and play the rest of this season once he was healed. The Heat, though, had no timeline for when Waiters would return.
“Until I take care of it and do what I’m supposed to do with it, even if I have the littlest sprain, it’s going to be like severe,” Waiters said last month of the pain in his ankle. “That’s why it just sucks because when I watched [the replay of the injury], I didn’t even do nothing. When I twisted, I just twisted it.”
By having the surgery now, Waiters should be able to return for the start of Miami’s training camp next September, assuming the timeline for recovery he mentioned in the preseason is accurate.
The Heat, which has started Tyler Johnson at shooting guard in Waiters’ place, are expected to get guard Rodney McGruder back from injury before the end of the season. That should help soften the blow of Waiters’ loss.