The Miami Heat’s preseason was rolling along just fine until Thursday when the team revealed starter Rodney McGruder has a stress fracture of his left tibia, an injury which could reportedly keep him sidelined anywhere from three to six months.
Citing a league source, Yahoo’s The Vertical first reported the news on McGruder, who started 65 games for Miami last season as an undrafted rookie and averaged 6.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.6 assists in 25.6 minutes per game while providing a steady hand on defense.
The Heat said any reports on how long McGruder will be out are “premature.” The team will not know the extent of how long he will be out until after he reportedly has surgery next week.
“Initial exam is a stress fracture of his left tibia, but he is still being evaluated,” a Heat spokesman said. “Any timetable is premature. Will let you know when we have more information.”
McGruder, 26, had started the Heat’s first five preseason games and was in line to be the starting small forward on opening night next Wednesday in Orlando. In 22.3 minutes per game this preseason, he was averaging 7.2 points while shooting 51.9 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from three-point range.
Coach Erik Spoelstra, who made no mention of McGruder’s injury when he spoke to reporters on Thursday before the team boarded a plane bound for Kansas City and the final game of the preseason against the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night, has a couple different options to turn to at small forward.
Spoelstra could start Justise Winslow, who started 15 games last season before going down with a season-ending shoulder injury and has struggled this preseason (5.2 points per game, 32 percent field goal shooting) to find his stroke.
Or, he could go with Josh Richardson, who has averaged 13.6 points per game this preseason, shot 44.6 percent from the field and 38.1 percent from three-point range. Richardson has started at point guard each of Miami’s last three preseason games, but can play shooting guard and small forward as well.
▪ Spoelstra said Okaro White sustained a mild left shoulder sprain in Wednesday’s win over the Washington Wizards. White will travel with the team to Kansas City, but will not play.
On a scale from 1 to 10, White decribed the pain as “a six.”
“It was a big-time relief to know it was a sprain,” said White, who was hurt Wednesday fighting through a screen. “We went through the protocol. I got good movement and stuff. It’s just real sore right now.”
▪ Point guard Goran Dragic will not travel to Kansas City to play in Friday’s game against the 76ers. He’s been on a maintenance program for “mental rest” this preseason and hasn’t played since Oct. 5 at Brooklyn. Dragic’s family is set to arrive in South Florida from Slovenia and the Heat said he was staying in town to greet them.
▪ Spoelstra said starters Hassan Whiteside and Dion Waiters, who got Wednesday night off to rest, would “get a little bit of a run” in Friday’s game.
▪ Spoelstra said reserve center A.J. Hammons, acquired in the Josh McRoberts trade with Dallas and who missed a weeks worth of time with the team because of the flu, may or may not finally get into his first preseason game Friday.
“He’s catching up since he missed some time,” Spoelstra said. “Just working on our system, making sure he understands what our principles are. He’s doing conditioning right now. He’s just getting his energy back up from the flu, so we’ll see.”
HEAT SIGN MITCHELL
Earlier in the day Thursday the Heat announced it had signed forward Tony Mitchell and waived guard Larry Drew II from the team’s 20-man preseason roster, which will be cut down to 15 this weekend.
Mitchell, 25, has appeared in three career NBA games, all with the Milwaukee Bucks during the 2013-14 season, totaling six points, one rebound, one assist and a steal while shooting 60 percent (3-of-5) from the field.
Mitchell and Drew II are both likely headed to join the Heat’s G League affiliate in Sioux Falls.
“We like him,” Spoelstra said. “These kind of guys we think they fit a lot of our DNA, the qualities we like. These guys are not random picks. I haven’t gotten to see him live, but the competitive spirit, toughness, ability to do multiple things, guard multiple positions, we like these kind of guys.”
Mitchell has appeared in 78 NBA G League games (52 starts) and averaged 21.2 points, 5.9 points, 2.8 assists, 1.28 steals and 32.7 minutes while shooting 42.5 percent from the field. He earned G League Rookie of the Year honors in 2013 while being named to the All-G League First Team and All-G League Rookie Team. The 2013 All-Star also captured back-to-back Slam Dunk titles in 2013 and 2014.
Mitchell has spent the last three seasons overseas playing for a variety of teams, most recently he split last season between three teams, appearing in 35 games (13 starts) averaging 13.0 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 21.6 minutes while shooting 42 percent from the field.