The first nine games of the season have included plenty of encouraging signs for the Heat.
The all-around All-Star level play from Jimmy Butler, the improvement from Bam Adebayo, the emergence of rookies Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn and the immediate impact Goran Dragic has made in his new sixth man role. The Heat (6-3) looks like one of the league’s top defensive teams, too, entering Saturday with the fifth-best defensive rating.
But the Dion Waiters situation continues to loom over the Heat, with the guard yet to play or even appear on the bench during the regular season after serving his one-game suspension in the Oct. 23 opener for “conduct detrimental to the team.”
Waiters was ruled out of Friday’s game against the Lakers because of an illness, with no other details provided. He was not with the team at Staples Center.
But a bit of clarity was offered Saturday evening. Waiters accompanied his teammates on Saturday’s flight from Los Angeles to South Florida. And he has not been suspended as of Saturday afternoon, according to the team.
Waiters was involved in an alarming medical situation on the Heat’s Thursday night flight from Phoenix to Los Angeles, the Miami Herald confirmed.
South Florida Fox Sports Radio host Andy Slater reported Friday night, “Waiters overdosed on ‘gummies,’ sources say, and was passed out when plane landed. He had a seizure when he was finally woken up, I’m told.” It is unclear if the “gummies” reference was related to cannabis.
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst and Adrian Wojnarowski reported Saturday night that Waiters experienced a panic attack on the Thursday night team flight after consuming a THC-infused edible. According to ESPN, “Waiters missed the game in Phoenix because of a stomachache and was seeking relief when he took an edible he was unfamiliar with, sources said.”
League rules prohibit the use of THC, with players who violate the NBA’s marijuana policy forced to enter the league’s marijuana program. Along with entering the marijuana program, a first violation comes with no additional penalty, a second violation comes with a $25,000 fine and a third violation comes with a five-game suspension.
Heat officials declined to comment on the incident, citing medical confidentiality laws.
The mother of Waiters, Monique Brown, went to social media on Saturday morning and posted a message on her Instagram story: “Please don’t Believe the rumors the media will report fake news to get clicks and likes ... smh none of that mess is true!”
Brown went on to post: “Thanks to all who reach out to us concerning [Waiters] ... He’s good ... We appreciate it.”
Waiters is in the third season of a four-year, $52 million contract he signed with the Heat in the summer of 2017. He has a $1.1 million bonus in his contract for appearing in at least 70 of Miami’s 82 games, which means he can miss only three more games this season to qualify for the extra money.
Waiters has been on the Heat’s active roster in two games this regular season — Sunday’s win over the Rockets and Thursday’s win over the Suns — but did not appear on the team’s bench in either game. He was in another part of AmericanAirlines Arena working out during the Heat-Rockets game and he was dealing with a stomach illness the day of the Heat-Suns game.
Waiters was suspended for the first game of the season, for what the team called unprofessional conduct - including complaining on the bench during the Heat’s preseason finale and refusing to do one mandatory weigh-in.
While Waiters’ situation is different than the rest, there have already been other key players to miss multiple games for the Heat this season.
Forward Derrick Jones Jr., who sat out Friday’s loss to the Lakers with a strained left hip, has missed five of the nine games. Forward Justise Winslow, who is currently in the league’s concussion protocol, has missed four games. And wing Jimmy Butler missed the first three games of the season while on paternity leave.
Forward James Johnson only made his season debut in Sunday’s win over the Rockets after spending the past month working toward meeting the team’s conditioning standards regarding body fat and weight.
“Everybody understands the same next man up mentality and we have a job to do and you’re supposed to win,” Butler said Friday of playing shorthanded. “No matter what, we got a group full of NBA guys and guys that know what they’re doing and play multiple positions. Whether we got a healthy team, two people or three people down, we still got a job to do.”
The Heat is idle until Tuesday’s home matchup against the Pistons.