Barry Jackson

Is Dion Waiters transforming before our eyes during Heat’s winning streak?

Dion Waiters comments on Heat's eighth win in a row

Miami Heat guard Dion Waiters talks to the media about how the team is handling its eight-game winning streak after the Heat defeated the Brooklyn Nets at the American Airlines Arena in Miami on Jan. 30, 2017.
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Miami Heat guard Dion Waiters talks to the media about how the team is handling its eight-game winning streak after the Heat defeated the Brooklyn Nets at the American Airlines Arena in Miami on Jan. 30, 2017.

A six-pack of Heat and Marlins notes on a Tuesday:

▪ There are so many interesting story lines during this Heat winning streak, and here’s one with long-term ramifications:

Is what we’re witnessing from Dion Waiters merely a hot streak or the transformation of an NBA player from decent to very good?

The answer is critical, because it will go a long way in determining whether Miami decides to make a legitimate offer to him this summer.

Waiters believes this is more than a hot streak. In his fifth year in the league, he said he “definitely” has turned the corner as an NBA player and cited Toronto’s Kyle Lowry as one example of a player who didn’t blossom until his fifth year.

Dion Waiters became the first Miami Heat player this season to earn the honor and the first since Dwyane Wade last season.

“Sometimes it doesn’t happen overnight [as] you would like it to,” he said. “Sometimes it is a process. That’s why I say trust the process. You have guys who have been in the league eight, nine years, like Kyle Lowry and John Wall. It takes time, man. I’m enjoying this right now. My ceiling is nowhere near where I know I can go. We are only just scratching the surface. I’ve got to continue to stay humble, stay hungry, continue to work hard. There is only one way from here and that’s up.”

Where has that ceiling not been reached? “Being that leader night in and night out. Even when things are not going my way, how can I motivate the guys and impact the game in some way? That’s what coach wants from me, to be that leader night in and night out.”

Waiters credits the Heat coaching staff for helpful tips that have aided his shooting and finishing at the basket. He also appreciates his open-door relationships with Erik Spoelstra and Pat Riley.

“To be honest, I couldn’t ask for a better place,” he said. “First and foremost, having a guy like Pat Riley, who’s seen it all. Just the talks I have with him. The whole coaching staff and organization, how we do things, I needed it to shape me into who I am and who I’m becoming. It’s a perfect spot.”

Waiters has averaged 21.7 points and shot 48.5 percent during this eight-game winning streak, well above his career averages of 13.6 and 41.1 percent. What’s more, he has 25 assists during his past four games.

▪ Per Elias: The Heat, which had an 11–30 record when this streak began, has matched the longest winning streak in NBA history by a team that was at least 19 games below .500 when it started. Two other teams put together eight-game winning streaks under those circumstances. The Knicks were 21–40 before winning their next eight games in March 2014, and the Warriors were 23–45 when they began an eight-game winning streak in March 2005.

▪ With Monday’s win, the Heat is now just 4.5 games behind No. 8 Charlotte for the final playoff spot and 5 games behind the No. 7 Bulls. The Heat has moved up to 12th in the conference, ahead of the 76ers, Magic and Nets.

▪  Marlins manager Don Mattingly told Sirius XM Radio’s Jim Bowden on Tuesday that Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna, as expected, will flip positions, with Yelich moving to center field and Ozuna moving to left field. The Marlins loved how Yelich handled center in 31 games there last season. (He played 120 in left last season.) Mattingly also said that AJ Ramos will be the closer, as opposed to free agent pickup Brad Ziegler or anybody else.

▪ Jim Leyland, who managed the Marlins to their first World Series title, is the subject of an MLB Network documentary at 9 p.m. Tuesday. Some Marlins-flavored highlights from the film:

Dave Dombrowski on hiring Leyland as Marlins manager: “The presence of an individual can be the difference between first place and last place in my mind. He took that club that was ready to win, he molded it, and I think he was the difference maker for us.”

Leyland on 1997 World Series Game 7: “You really had to pinch yourself to realize you were there. There were 60,000-something people there. The impact this had on little kids and dads and grandsons, I mean, it’s unbelievable when you think about it and to think you’re involved in that, it’s touching. It touches me. It’s unbelievable to think that you’re a small part of something that big. I felt like it was a reward for me for spending all those years in the minor leagues. I took it as a reward.”

Leyland on winning the 1997 World Series: “I was in the minor leagues 18 straight years never thinking that I was going to get to the big leagues. This was a long route for me, but it’s something I treasured.... I was so happy that they could never say that I wasn’t on a team that didn’t win the big one [and] couldn’t win the big one. We won one. … And I’ve thought about that, I’ll be honest with you. I’m not going to lie. … I’m happy that I don’t have to live with that.”

▪ Though the Marlins haven’t ruled out bringing back Chris Johnson or Jeff Francouer on minimum deals, they say they’re committed to giving starter Justin Bour more of a chance against left-handers. Bour has hit .271 with 39 homers in 660 at-bats against . right-handers but .223 and no homers in 103 at-bats vs. lefties.

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