The Heat is playing a rare set of back-to-back home games this weekend believing it won’t have any of the rotation players who sustained injuries in recent weeks.
Coach Erik Spoelstra said Hassan Whiteside and James Johnson will miss both sets of the back-to-back — Friday against Dallas and Saturday against New Orleans — and he doesn’t expect Goran Dragic or Justise Winslow to be available for either game, either.
After this weekend, Whiteside will have missed 13 consecutive games with a bone bruise on his left knee.
Asked whether Whiteside’s return is days or weeks away, Spoelstra said it was unclear. Spoelstra also said it remains undetermined when Whiteside will be able to participate in a full practice.
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It has been 22 days since the Heat said he would miss one to two weeks before being re-evaluated. So this has gone on longer than Miami initially expected.
“But he’s definitely going in the right direction,” Spoelstra said.
Spoelstra said Whiteside did on-court work with coaches Thursday and participated in shootaround Friday.
“He is getting better,” Spoelstra said. “[Thursday] he was doing for the first time basketball-related work with coaches. He’s out there 35 minutes, conditioning afterward. We’ll build on that. … It’s trending in the right direction. I’m very encouraged by the last week.”
Whiteside has said he will not return until he’s 100 percent and won’t be available for interviews until his first game back.
If they sit out Saturday’s New Orleans game as expected, Dragic will have missed four games with a left elbow strain, Winslow will have missed six games with a left knee sprain and Johnson four games with right ankle bursitis.
Regarding Dragic and Winslow, Spoelstra said Friday morning: “I don’t anticipate them playing [Saturday], but we’ll see how they feel in the next 24 hours.”
Rodney McGruder and Okaro White remain out indefinitely, but Spoelstra said that McGruder did some on-court work Thursday and will play this season after sustaining a stress fracture in his left tibia before the regular season started.
▪ This marks the 19th time in franchise history that the Heat is playing home games on consecutive days and the first time since April 2012.
In the wake of Kelly Olynyk scoring a career-high 32 points on 12-for-15 shooting against Boston on Wednesday, several teammates and Spoelstra said they want Olynyk to shoot more — something they advocated even before that big night. And Olynyk said he’s taking that to heart.
“Yeah, that’s definitely the plan,” he said. “Hopefully it works like it did the other night. That’s definitely what the plan is, to try to open everything up” for others.
Why does he sometimes pass up open shots? “Maybe there’s a better [shot] down the clock or something like that,” he said. “Some of them are tougher, early in the clock. They want [me] to shoot ’em, so I’ll shoot ’em.”
Said Spoelstra: “That would be a big step [to shoot more]. A great start would be launching eight threes a game regardless of whether they’re open or not. …
“We love his skill set. He’s very committed to player development. He wants to improve. He’s ambitious. That’s a great marriage. We love to serve and try to help guys reach their dreams. He will have the ball in his hands quite a bit, handling plays for us, playing out of the post. We will continue to develop all areas of his game.”
Asked how Olynyk has done defensively, Spoelstra said: “I like it. He has been coached well. He’s diligent. He competes.”
Olynyk fell awkwardly after a late-game dunk in Boston and sustained a hyperextended left knee, but said Friday that he is feeling OK beyond a “little’ soreness. Spoelstra called him the human bruise.
▪ The Heat, which essentially had one guaranteed minimum-salary contract to offer in August, is glad it gave it to Jordan Mickey, who has thrived since joining the rotation.
Spoelstra said team president Pat Riley and Heat vice president/player personnel Chet Kammerer liked him and “the little bit I was familiar with him [before this season, I liked] the fact he was a shot-blocker, rebounder, could develop into a high motor big. Had some shooting potential. He checks a lot of boxes from a coaching standpoint, the kind of guys we like to fill in our rotation at the big position.
“He hasn’t let us down. We really have enjoyed working with him. He’s a true pro. He has a very good future ahead of him because of the way he works. When you see him a few months from now, a few years from now, he will be a much different player.”
If Mickey’s numbers were extrapolated, he would be averaging 13.2 points and 13.0 rebounds per 36 minutes, while shooting 53.8 percent from the field.