When Wayne Ellington took a knee to his right thigh in the Heat’s final preseason game it cost him the first month of the 2016-17 regular season — a span of 16 games.
Ellington, who ranks sixth in the NBA this season in three-pointers made (174 of 451), says he doesn’t expect to be out nearly that long this time around.
“Not even close,” Ellington said Wednesday after sitting out practice and receiving treatment on his left quadriceps following Tuesday night’s run-in with 76ers center Amir Johnson’s knee as he was fighting through a screen to try and guard Marco Belinelli.
“I just kind of keep comparing it to [last year’s] and remembering that. I have a great measuring stick and I’ve been through it before. I’m thankful that it’s not close to that.”
Unlike last year, Ellington is thankful he was wearing a protective pad when he and Johnson collided midway through the second quarter. Tyler Johnson, who was also injured Tuesday night fighting through a screen on defense in the third quarter, was also wearing protective pads when he was kneed in his left quad.
Like Ellington, Johnson did not practice either on Wednesday and coach Erik Spoelstra said it was too early to tell whether either player would be healthy enough to return to action in time for Thursday night’s game at AmericanAirlines Arena against the Los Angeles Lakers.
“That might be too much to ask right now,” Ellington said of a possible return on Thursday. “I’m still about to go get some more treatment, see how I feel at the end of the day and we’ll just go day-to-day and go from there.
“It’s frustrating. But we always look at it like a little adversity builds character. So I think we’ll be OK, man. They’re not serious injuries or anything that’s going to keep us out for months or anything like that. Speaking for myself, I don’t know what’s going on with Tyler. But I feel like that I’ll be back in no time.”
Although he didn’t play again after leaving with 7:01 left in the third quarter, Johnson at least returned from the locker room and sat on the Heat’s bench down the stretch of Tuesday’s heart-pounding win over the 76ers. Ellington stayed in the Heat’s training room receiving treatment.
Johnson was unavailable for comment on Wednesday.
Ellington was listed as doubtful and Johnson as questionable for Thursday’s game on the Heat’s injury report released Wednesday afternoon.
If Johnson is unavailable to play Thursday it’s unclear whom Spoelstra could insert in his place in the starting lineup at shooting guard. Although Dwyane Wade, 36, scored a season-high 27 points in Tuesday’s win, he admitted Wednesday he’s still not in optimal “Heat” playing shape for major minutes.
“I’m not there yet,” said Wade, who is averaging 22.6 minutes per game this season. “It was what, my sixth game last night? It’s going to take me a little while to get there. I thought I played 35 minutes last night. I looked and it was 25. But I definitely have put in a lot of hard work behind the scenes to get to [in Heat shape] and I’ll be getting better as the year goes on.”
It’s also unclear whether Rodney McGruder will be ready for a heavier workload either. He played nine minutes in his debut Tuesday and scored three points. Asked whether McGruder could receive a heavier workload Thursday, Spoelstra was non-committal.
“We’re still trying to figure [minutes] out when we’re fully healthy,” Spoelstra said. “I wasn’t planning on playing him [Tuesday]. Then I also know Rodney McGruder well enough that he finds a way to get in. Once he gets in there, then he’s going to make it tough for you to take him out and he makes winning plays.”
One option for Spoelstra: He could start Josh Richardson at shooting guard and Justise Winslow at small forward if Kelly Olynyk is ready to rejoin the starting lineup at power forward. Olynyk, who missed three weeks with a strained left shoulder before returning to action Tuesday, played more than Spoelstra initially wanted to play him, finishing with 9 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists in 25 minutes.
“I would prefer probably not to extend [his minutes] too far right now,” Spoelstra said of Olynyk. “That was more than I planned on playing him last night. Again, it was tough to take him out of the game.”