Facing a Monday deadline on two different personnel fronts, the Heat is sticking with swingman Derrick Jones Jr. and point guard Derrick Walton Jr. as its two two-way players and also will pursue a mechanism that would allow Miami to use a $5.5 million exception to add a player if it chooses.
Monday was the final day that teams could sign players to two-way contracts for the balance of the season. Miami said it is staying with Walton and Jones with those contracts.
The league instituted two-way contracts this season, which allows players to spend no more than 45 days in the NBA during that season, and the remainder of the season in the G-League.
Jones has 16 remaining available NBA days this season, and Walton has 12.
Meanwhile, Miami applied for a $5.5 million disabled player’s exception by Monday’s midnight deadline. If granted, that would allow the Heat to replace Dion Waiters, if it wishes, but Miami would be required to create a roster spot to add a player.
As part of the process, an independent doctor must confirm that Waiters’ ankle injury would sideline him through at least June 15.
That $5.5 million could be used only on a player with an expiring contract — either through a trade, free agency or a buyout.
The deadline to use the exception, should it be granted, is March 12.
T. JOHNSON FALLOUT
▪ Tyler Johnson’s sprained left ankle sustained during the third quarter of Monday’s loss further depletes the Heat at the position Miami can least afford it.
“It seems like all the twos are going down,” Goran Dragic of the Heat’s shooting guards. “Rodney [McGruder], Dion. Hopefully, nothing serious with Tyler.”
Coach Erik Spoelstra said Johnson initially feared it was a knee injury before it was diagnosed as a sprained ankle, with X-rays showing no structural damage and the timetable for his return undetermined.
“It’s actually the back of his foot, his ankle,” Spoelstra said. “Everything was fine with [the X-rays] so the first part of the news is he’s relieved. We were all thinking the worst but we’ll see if we can get an MRI done [Tuesday]. Right now he just has it wrapped in tape so that’s a good sign but we’ll know more.”
No MRI was scheduled as of Monday evening, and the Heat will determine on Tuesday if one is necessary. Johnson left on crutches and was not available for comment.
“I had never seen Tyler stay down like that,” Dragic said. “When he stood up, it was a relief.”
Said Hassan Whiteside: “The backcourt is already thin enough. We’re already down so many guards. It’s a team full of big men.”
▪ Whiteside continues to be a spectator in the fourth quarter.
That happened again Monday, with Spoelstra opting not to use Whiteside for a single minute in the fourth, partly because Miami made a run without him in the game and partly because the Bulls were playing sweet-shooting big men in Lauri Markkanen and Robin Lopez.
“I can’t be [mad] about it,” Whiteside said. “It’s whatever coach Spo wants.”
Whiteside, who finished with nine points, eight rebounds and two blocks in just under 20 minutes, said he has “no problem” going to the perimeter to defend big men with range.
▪ Spoelstra was initially irked about a 14-2 Bulls’ run at the end of the first half.
“That was really disgusting basketball,” he said. “We were up five and then all of a sudden, we’re going into the locker room down seven. They lit us up.”
Also irking Spoelstra was Miami’s three-point defense. The Bulls hit 16 of 39 three pointers (41 percent) against a Heat team that entered tied for second in the league behind Boston in fewest three-pointers allowed per game (9.1), on an average of 24.9 attempts.