Heat guard Dion Waiters is back on the court for the first time since ankle surgery in January.
But whether he’s back in time for the start of the regular season in mid-October remains in question.
Waiters, on his Instagram account, on Tuesday posted a photo of himself taking a jump shot with these words:
“First time on the court since surgery. All man great to be back. We getting closer. Bet on yourself. Then double down. Step by step.”
The surgery, performed in January in Van Nuys, Cal., was designed to “repair instability” in his troublesome left ankle.
Waiters had a preexisting navicular bone fracture that was also repaired during the surgery.
The Heat said it was aware of Waiters’ preexisting navicular bone fracture before it signed him to a four-year, $52 million deal last summer and says the only reason he had it repaired Jan. 23 was because doctors were already repairing instability elsewhere.
Waiters, 25, made 30 starts for the Heat and averaged 14.3 points, 3.8 assists and 2.6 rebounds in 30.6 minutes per game last season.
He said last September that ankle surgery could sideline him 8 to 10 months. If it’s the full 10 months, that would extend until the third week of October. The Heat has said it's unknown if he will be ready for the start of training camp in late September.
The Heat received a $5.5 million disabled player exception after Waiters’ injury last season but ultimately never used it before it expired.
The Heat hopes a healthy Waiters resembles the player who averaged 18.4 points per game and shot 49.3 percent from the field and 44.8 on three-pointers during a magical 25-game run between January and March 2017.
Before his season-ending surgery, Waiters ranked among the bottom shooting guards in the league last season in shooting percentage (39.8) and three-point shooting (30.6 percent).
Though Carmelo Anthony has been giving consideration to the Heat as he nears his exit from Oklahoma City, the New York Times said as of Tuesday, “Houston was the unquestioned frontrunner” for him.
Both the Heat and Rockets met with him in Las Vegas in recent days.
The Thunder has until Aug. 31 to waive Anthony and stretch the $27.9 million he’s owed over three years. But a parting is expected far sooner than that.
▪ Though the Heat, within NBA rules, has the ability to find a way to use the full $8.8 million mid-level exception this summer, it would need to create a bit more space, realistically, to do it, because using that big exception would leave the Heat hard-capped at $129 million this coming season.
The Heat, which has $120 million committed in salary for this season, instead could use its $5.3 million taxpayer mid-level exception without being hard-capped for the season.
That exception is the Heat’s biggest remaining salary carrot this offseason, and one that Dwyane Wade might get if he decides to play next season. That exceptional, incidentally, can be split between two players.
Free agent guard Wayne Ellington has Early Bird rights, meaning he could re-sign for more than exception money and without the Heat using the exception.
▪ If the Heat uses its $3.4 million bi-annual exception, that would result in the Heat being hard-capped this season at that $129 million.