Barry Jackson

Heat’s Waiters expected to miss Wednesday’s game

Miami Heat guard Dion Waiters drives against Atlanta Hawks forward Kent Bazemore during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Wed., Feb. 1, 2017.
Miami Heat guard Dion Waiters drives against Atlanta Hawks forward Kent Bazemore during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Wed., Feb. 1, 2017. dsantiago@elnuevoherald.com

MILWAUKEE - Heat shooting guard Dion Waiters is expected to miss Wednesday’s game against Milwaukee because of a left ankle sprain but said the injury will not sideline him long-term.

Waiters, who is not wearing a walking boot or cast and isn’t walking with a visible limp, said he hopes to return as early as a back-to-back on Friday at Brooklyn and Saturday at Philadelphia but couldn’t say for sure.

“Hell, yeah – Brooklyn, Philly,” he said when asked if he hopes to be back before the All-Star break begins for the Heat after the Feb. 15 game at Houston.

“I feel better already,” he said. “I’m walking better. I’m not limping. It’s definitely short term. I just treated it. It’s better already. It’s not a long term thing. I definitely was sore [Tuesday]. I hadn’t had an ankle sprain in so long I forgot what it almost felt like and it sucks.”

Coach Erik Spoelstra was more cautious. Asked if it was a short-term injury, he said: “I don’t know. We’ll see. Right now, we’re just in treatment and rest mode. He’s feeling better, walking around fine now without an air cast.”

Waiters, who missed 20 games earlier this season with a torn muscle in his groin area, said it’s disappointing to miss the Heat’s attempt for a 12th consecutive win on Wednesday.

“Everything that is going on leading up to this, I feel bad,” he said. “We were moving in the right direction, we still are. It’s been tough. I’ve never through this many injuries in one season. It sucks.”

Waiters sustained the injury when he fell on the foot of Minnesota’s Gorgui Deing during the third quarter of Monday’s game. But Waiters remained in the game.

“I wasn’t leaving the court,” he said. “No matter, coach looked at me a couple of times I told him, ‘no, just let me tough it out, just let me do what I’ve got to do.’

“Even if I’m not scoring I still can impact the game. They still got to focus on me and even if I’m just cutting through and things like that they got to keep an eye on me and that will give other guys the opportunity to make a play.”

Spoelstra said Waiters’ insistence on staying in the game despite the injury was a testament to his competitiveness.

“Dion wants to be out there. He doesn’t like that he has missed that much time already this season,” Spoelstra said. “That sometimes can happen depending on the player. If you sprain your ankle during the game that you might be able to finish. It’s really the next two or three days how your body responds.”

Waiters has averaged 20.6 points and shot 49.4 percent from the field during the Heat’s winning streak.

“He has shown a consistent commitment to get better and that’s what we’ve asked of him,” Spoelstra said. “We’ll embrace him and be open to him and for him to be open and embrace how we’re trying to improve his game to become a complete two-way player.

“I’ve seen significant improvement in his game on both sides of the floor. We just want to continue to push forward and not settle for this level. Can we get to another level or two or three levels up from that? I think he has that potential and we have to continue to work.”

With Tyler Johnson comfortable coming off the bench, Wayne Ellington figures to make his 11th start of the season in Waiters’ absence.

Ellington is averaging a career-high 11.0 points – up from his 7.4 career average – while shooting 41.6 percent from the field and 34.7 percent on threes. He’s second on the team, behind Goran Dragic, with 68 three-pointers.

“I really like [Ellington] as a player and as a person,” Spoelstra said. “He’s a rock solid pro. He’s the type of guy you want on your team because of his character and consistency. He can provide leadership as a veteran player.

“He’s really been committed to learning how we do things defensively and get better with that. He’s making good strides becoming a very good team defender for us. I’ve been pleased with his progress on that side of the floor.

“Offensively, he’s one of the rare catch and shoot players you see in this game and that gives variety to our offensive menu and that’s helped.” 

The Heat also remains without guard Josh Richardson, who is expected to miss his 15th game with a left foot sprain. He is working with the team but hasn’t been cleared for contact work. Richardson said he hopes to return before the All-Star game.

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