Erik Spoelstra believes Heat on brink of being healthy despite not having Winslow, Waiters for road trip

 

Goran Dragic returned Monday after missing two games because of a strained elbow. “It’s been a roller coaster,” he said about the injuries. (AP Photo)

Heat guard Goran Dragic returned Monday after missing two games because of a strained elbow. “It’s been a roller coaster,” he said about the injuries. (AP Photo)

DENVER – The Miami Heat will be without starters Dion Waiters and Justise Winslow for their three-game trip that starts Wednesday against the Nuggets, yet coach Erik Spoelstra believes his team is as close to being fully healthy as it has all season.

“I’m only seeing positives right now,” Spoelstra said following Tuesday’s light workout in Denver. “We’re getting guys back.

“Glass half full or half empty I see it as half full. Guys are getting healthy, guys are coming back into the mix. Pretty soon now I’ll have to start making some tough decisions.”

Waiters and Winslow remained in South Florida when the Heat (5-12) departed Tuesday. Waiters sat out Monday’s home loss to Boston with what Spoelstra says is a hip flexor/groin strain. Winslow missed his eighth straight game with a sore wrist. Both players will receive treatment while their teammates are taking on Denver, Utah (Thursday) and Portland (Saturday).

“We’re not going to have much practice time, if at all, other than this,” Spoelstra said following Tuesday’s workout in Denver. “So we left behind an assistant coach, strength coach and trainer that’s going to be in our facility with real focused intense work two times a day to try to take the next aggressive step, particularly with Justise.”

Winslow, who sprained his left wrist early in the season and played through it until being shut down Nov. 15, appears close enough that Spoelstra is hopeful he will return for next Tuesday’s home game against the Knicks. He will wind up missing 11 games at the minimum.

Spoelstra was asked if it is more likely that Winslow returns sooner than Waiters.

“It might be safe to say that,” he said. “Justise will be gearing up this week to get himself ready.”

Waiters’ injury is a bit more tricky. Spoelstra said it needs rest, but at the same time Waiters needs to maintain his conditioning. Waiters had been playing through the injury, and playing well, scoring a season-high 28 points in Saturday’s home loss to Memphis before finally missing his first game Monday.

Guard Tyler Johnson missed Monday’s game after having oral surgery earlier in the day. He is expected to play against Denver.

Guard Goran Dragic returned Monday after missing two games with a strained left elbow.

Guard Wayne Ellington returned Monday after missing the start of the season with a bruised thigh.

Center Willie Reed returned Monday after missing four games because of a hyperextended knee.

Center Hassan Whiteside is dealing with a sore knee. He had an MRI Monday that was clean.

“It’s been a roller coaster,” Dragic said. “If you want to have good results you need to be healthy. I can’t wait for those guys to come back to get our rotation back to normal.”

Spoelstra went with a starting five of Dragic, Rodney McGruder, Derrick Williams, Luke Babbitt and Whiteside against Boston, a group that had not played one minute together the entire season.

Whether Spoelstra sticks to that lineup will be determined. Miami got off to a dreadful start, scoring 31 points in the first half while shooting 37.8 percent.

“It’s been different things in each game,” Spoelstra said about the rough start to the season. “Sometimes it’s been offensively, sometimes it’s been defensively. (Monday) in the course of one game we had a really tough offensive quarter in the second quarter, came out with a great offensive quarter in the third quarter, but our defense really suffered.

“Consistency is something we’re working on. We need to get better.”

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