Miami Heat

Here’s a ‘very encouraging’ update on the status of Dion Waiters

Miami Heat Erik Spoelstra talks about Dion Waiters’ injury going into training camp

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra talks about Dion Waiters' injury going into training camp during media day held at the American Airlines Arena on September 24, 2018.
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Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra talks about Dion Waiters' injury going into training camp during media day held at the American Airlines Arena on September 24, 2018.

Dion Waiters continues to move closer to his return.

The 27-year-old Heat guard returned to practice Tuesday for the first time since January surgery on his left ankle. But coach Erik Spoelstra made it clear “it wasn’t a training camp practice” for Waiters, with the team classifying him as a limited participant in the session.

After practice, Waiters took part in a 3-on-3 game with teammates.

“He’s getting better, making progress,” Spoelstra said.

When asked if Waiters will return by the end of the calendar year, Spoelstra said: “I don’t know. Basically right now, it’s day by day evaluations. But he’s doing a lot more on the court, which is good.”

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Waiters has not played in a game since undergoing surgery on Jan. 22 to repair instability and a preexisting navicular bone fracture in his left ankle. That means Waiters has yet to play in a game alongside Dwyane Wade, who was traded to the Heat in February.

“It’s very encouraging,” Wade said of Waiters’ participation in Tuesday’s practice. “I think today was the first day that we were on the same unit. He has so much talent. He’s one of the guys that playing against him, I’ve seen the talent that he has on both ends of the floor. Then, obviously, I watched him when he was here and he was healthy, and he played very well.

“You want him to get back healthy, understanding that he can definitely help us with his ability to score the basketball, to make plays and to defend. It’s going to take him a while to get to where he wants to get to, but he’s getting closer each day. It’s good to see him out there.”

The left ankle has been an issue for Waiters since he missed the final 13 games of the 2016-17 season after spraining it on March 17, 2017. He played through ankle tweaks to start last season, but opted for season-ending surgery after spraining it again during the Heat’s win over the Mavericks on Dec. 22.

The original timetable for his return was eight to 10 months after surgery. Saturday will mark 11 months since the procedure.

Waiters, who is in the second season of a four-year, $52 million contract, averaged 14.3 points on 39.8 percent shooting and 3.8 assists in 30 games last season.

“To be able to get him back, it would be cool to be able to pass some of the things that I’ve learned in this game down to somebody who has the same abilities that I’ve had,” Wade said of the possibility of playing with Waiters. “He has so much talent. With the right leadership, the right mentality, and obviously health, he can definitely be one of the best two guards in this game. He’s still so young. ... He has so much basketball life ahead of him.”

Goran Dragic did not practice Tuesday, as he continues to deal with a swollen right knee. He’s missed 12 of the past 14 games with the injury.

Josh Richardson (sore left hip flexor) and Justise Winslow (right ankle pain) did not practice Tuesday, but the Heat is hopeful both will play Thursday against the Rockets.

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Anthony Chiang covers the Miami Heat for the Miami Herald. He attended the University of Florida and was born and raised in Miami.