Dion Waiters is not ready to make his return yet.
The Heat announced Tuesday afternoon that Waiters, who is still rehabilitating from January surgery on his left ankle, will not be ready to practice when the team begins training camp next week and is also “unlikely” to be ready for the start of the regular season on Oct. 17.
“Dion will not be returning to the court until the Heat medical team and training staff deem him healed, rehabbed and physically conditioned for all basketball activities,”Heat president Pat Riley said Tuesday in a statement.
There has been no setback in Waiters’ recovery, according to a team spokesman. This news is just part of the original six-to-10-month recovery timetable given at the time of surgery.
With Waiters, 26, undergoing left ankle surgery on Jan. 22 to repair instability and a preexisting navicular bone fracture,the nine-month mark falls during the first week of the regular season.
The left ankle has been an issue for Waiters since he missed the final 13 games of the 2016-17 season after spraining it. But he chose treatment over surgery last offseason as he signed a four-year, $52 million free-agent contract with the Heat in July 2017.
That ankle pain lingered into the 2017-18 season as he averaged 14.3 points on an inefficient 39.8 percent shooting in 30 games before opting for season-ending surgery after spraining it again during the Heat’s win over the Mavericks on Dec. 22.
The surgery cost Waiters a $1.1 million bonus last season that was tied into the four-year deal he signed with the Heat last summer. For the bonus to kick in, Waiters needed to play in at least 70 of Miami’s 82 games to lift his 2017-18 salary from $11 million to $12.1 million.
Waiters, who is set to make $11.5 million this season in the second year of a four-year deal, again has a bonus for just more than $1 million in his contract for appearing in at least 70 games this season. Since he didn’t meet that requirement last season, that bonus does not count against the Heat’s salary cap and luxury tax this year unless he achieves that benchmark.
Now that Waiters is unlikely to be ready for the start of the regular season, that bonus is in jeopardy again this year.
With Waiters out, the Heat’s options to start at shooting guard are Dwyane Wade, Tyler Johnson, Wayne Ellington, Rodney McGruder, Derrick Jones Jr. or moving Josh Richardson to the spot from small forward. Johnson started in Waiters’ place last season.
The Heat host its annual media day on Monday before opening training camp on Sept. 25 at FAU. The preseason begins on Sept. 30 against the Spurs in San Antonio.