The Heat on Thursday fined guard Dion Waiters for publicly venting about his lack of playing time earlier this week, and Erik Spoelstra made clear that Waiters’ call to be reinserted in the starting lineup won’t have any affect on the coach’s decisions.
“Obviously, it’s not acceptable behavior, particularly coming off the type of disappointing loss we had the other night,” Spoelstra said, with the Heat declining to specify the amount of the fine, which was assessed for “conduct detrimental to the team.”
Waiters said he’s glad he said something, but he should have said it differently.
He said he wants to remain with the Heat: “Absolutely,” he said after a Heat practice Thursday in suburban Detroit, in advance of Friday’s game at the Pistons. “I feel like we started something. Why not finish it? But I understand it’s a business also.”
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The Heat shopped him in trades last summer, according to two competing NBA general managers. Waiters’ four-year, $52 million contract runs two more seasons after this one.
But asked if he could deal with this amount of playing time if it continues for the remainder of the season, he said: “I don’t know. I can’t sit here and tell you that. I can’t predict the future. All I can do is continue to try to stay in shape and work on my game and have a clear mind and not try to think about negative stuff.”
Several teammates spoke to Waiters, both privately and in a team meeting Wednesday, about channeling his frustration in better ways.
“Look, this is going to be very difficult for Dion,” Spoelstra said. “I have empathy for everything he’s gone through in the last year to get back to where he is right now. It’s been a full calendar year, but this is not about him.
“This is only about the team, and it’s about winning. I expect him to get in great shape, in great rhythm and be prepared every single night to earn his opportunities just like everybody else. And then when he gets that opportunity, to make the most of it.”
And Spoelstra made clear that “ranting out in the media [is] not going to move the needle with me at all. I just don’t think it’s healthy for our team. It ends up just being a distraction…. It won’t be on his terms. It’ll be on the team’s terms.
“But I think it’s important for him to realize: Our team is much different than when he left last year, and while his teammates are really here to support him, nobody is volunteering their rotation minutes to him. It’ll have to be earned just like everybody else. These concepts of patience and surrendering to the team, whether we want to put expletives in front of it or behind it, those are going to be very important concepts for him to embrace, and I think he will.”
Since returning from ankle surgery, Waiters hasn’t played in two games and played only 10, 24, 20, 9 and 12 minutes in the other five.
After Tuesday’s loss in Milwaukee, he said: “[Expletive] patience! I want to play. I’ve been patient long enough. What do I got to be patient for? Come on man. I’ve been patient. I think everybody knows that. It’s time. What are we waiting for? If I’m out there, play me.”
Waiters then made clear that “the next step is being back in the starting lineup, [expletive] like that. Patience has run out. I’m tired of this.”
Waiters said Thursday: “Sometimes, it’s hard holding back the truth, how you really feel, and sometimes the best way is let it out and move forward. I made a mistake but I can live with that because when you hold something in and it’s bottled up, it can wear on you a little bit.
“I was frustrated. I want to play. I want to speed this process up a little bit. I don’t mean no harm to nobody. I’m not perfect nor do I try to be. I just want to play the game I love that I missed for a year. It was built up frustration and I feel good about letting it out. Could I have said it better? Absolutely.”
Waiters said he spoke with Wade for about an hour about the situation. “That’s somebody that has been in my shoes,” Waiters said. “He… had to take a backseat when LeBron James came and he was just telling me it was hard to adjust. He was telling me to stay patient, ‘you’re so talented that I’m going to stay on your [butt].”
Wade said Waiters needs to be a “little careful” when he speaks to the media and told him “when I was 26, 27, I said or did things I probably should have said different.”
Haslem said he spoke to Waiters both in the team meeting and alone and “my conversation with Dion was, ‘We want that chip on your shoulder, we want that fire, we want that competitive spirit. We just want it channeled in the right direction.’
“We don’t have any bad apples on our team,” Haslem said. “We understand Dion’s comments, while not the right thing to do, are coming from a good place.”