Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Tuesday afternoon that Hassan Whiteside, who has missed the past five games with a bone bruise in his left knee, participated in some 2-on-2 and 3-on-3 drills during a light practice that came less than a day after the Heat’s grueling 125-122 overtime loss to Minnesota.
When asked, Spoelstra did not specify if Whiteside’s workout on Tuesday involved any contact practice.
"I mean, he's getting better, he's working," Spoelstra said. "And that’s all I want to see. I want to see him pushing himself and making sure there's no pain."
Spoelstra said Whiteside’s condition will be evaluated prior to Wednesday night’s game against the Chicago Bulls.
Whiteside has only played in the Heat’s season opener when he finished with 26 points and 22 rebounds against the Magic.
The Heat started Jordan Mickey in the two games following Whiteside’s injury, and started rookie Bam Adebayo the past three games.
Adebayo finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds on Monday night.
"I don't have a determination on when he'll be ready," Spoelstra said. "Everything is basically work, see how his body responds to it. Everyday has been a little bit better, so we'll see how he feels [Wednesday], if he can go through shootaround."
The Heat said Goran Dragic did not practice Tuesday due to an illness, but the team expects him to be available against the Bulls.
Wayne Ellington has also been dealing with a cold this week, but still played in Monday night’s game.
Spoelstra said that while Whiteside’s return would be a boost, the team needs to continue to improve defensively and can’t expect his presence to be the cure to its early-season struggles.
The Heat turned the ball over 24 times in Monday night’s game including 17 giveaways in the second half and overtime combined.
The mistakes cost the Heat in a game in which they won the rebounding battle 50-40 and outscored the T’Wolves 23-14 in second-chance points.
"He's come such a long way, such a pivotal part of what we do, on both sides of the court," Spoelstra said. "But, with that said, we still have to be better as a collective unit, particularly defensively. We can't just expect him to erase all of our woes right now. And he's not going to be able to protect everything in the paint for us."
Dion Waiters didn’t lose any steam at all in the second half Monday night.
In fact, he looked stronger the later it got.
But one of the biggest keys to his success is finishing at the rim – something he’s worked plenty on improving entering this season.
“He's really, really worked at it,” Spoelstra said. “That's a major part of his player development, of his responsibility for this team, to be an attacker that puts pressure on the opponent, in the paint, to collapse defenses and to make the right play. There's a lot of responsibility when you have the ball in your hands and the team needs you to be aggressive. That means we can’t settle.
“You have to make the right decisions when you're in traffic, that you have to make the right decisions on when to finish and when to set up a teammate for a better shot. You can see the potential with it. He's getting better at those reads.”
Waiters did not look bothered one bit by the nagging left ankle injury that has impeded him entering the season, and made a career-best 11 shots made near the basket on Monday while tying a career-high in points with 33.
"My thing is I always got there," Waiters said. "Sometimes I finish at a high level, sometimes I finish at a low level. But when I got here, we just drilled it more about being consistent at that rim."
Waiters said Tuesday he’s worked on keeping his eyes on the basket and complete the drive to the bucket as well as maintaining good technique on the way up.
"I can get there, it’s about making sure I’m focused," Waiters said. "Sometimes I take my eye off the basket even when I get there or sometimes you try to be too fancy and things like that. So the most important thing for me is keeping my elbow tucked in and making sure my eye is always on the rim no matter what."