Miami Heat’s Wayne Ellington steps up game after improving conditioning

 

 

Wayne Ellington's game is in much better shape and so are the Heat since he returned. (AP Photo)

Wayne Ellington’s game is in much better shape and so are the Heat since he returned. (AP Photo)

MIAMI – Wayne Ellington knew something had to change.

Looking to reestablish his career after a disappointing season in Brooklyn, he had a long conversation with coach Erik Spoelstra and strength and conditioning coach Bill Foran after signing a two-year $12 million contract last summer.

“I wanted to get in the best shape that I could possibly be in,” said Ellington, Miami’s 6-foot-5, swingman. “That’s what the Miami Heat is about anyway. That’s the standard here so I put that extra work in, running and in the weight room, doing cardio and it’s paying off for me big time.”

Finally on the court after missing more than a month with a deep thigh bruise, Ellington, 29, is in his eight NBA season and is averaging 15.0 points and shooting 51.1 percent in four games, providing the Heat with outside shooting they desperately need. He’s averaged double digits twice in his career and never more than 10.4 points (2012-13 with Cleveland).

Ellington, 208 pounds, has cut his body fat in half, to 7 percent.

“He’s gotten into I think the best shape of his career,” Spoelstra said. “He’s lost as much body fat as anybody on our roster since July 20th. And when you think about somebody built like him. … He’s lost almost 20 pounds. So he’s much quicker, much faster, much more energy. He played (39) minutes Saturday night (in Portland) and he could run off screens all night long. And he’s not getting tired.”

As difficult as transforming his body was maintaining it while recovering from the thigh bruise, which occurred in the last preseason game and forced him to miss the first 16 games of the season. Ellington said that’s when he really changed his diet.

“I knew it was going to be tough for me not being able to run and not being able to ride the bike,” he said. “That’s one thing I could control, my eating habits.”

Ellington has done it both coming off the bench and starting, as he did last game as injuries continue to mount. His game is multi-faceted. He can get off a shot as quick as anybody on the team and will take the ball to the basket.

“You have to game plan for him,” Spoelstra said. “All that helps your menu. The are more things you have to game plan against that helps your offense, if you do it efficiently.”

Ellington came off the bench his first three games, his breakout being his second game when he scored 22 points, including four three pointers in the fourth quarter, of the Heat’s victory in Denver.

When Luke Babbitt was not available to play in Portland after injuring his hip the previous game, Ellington moved into the starting small forward spot.

With Justise Winslow (wrist) and Dion Waiters (groin) still out for tonight’s game against the Knicks, and Babbitt and Josh Richardson (ankle) questionable, Ellington may or may not start.

Spoelstra was asked if he sees Ellington as a long term starter.

“Not necessarily,” he said. “That’s why I told the team that right now nothing is in cement. That’s why there’s an emphasis right now in our identity and how we’re playing. So clear your mind, it doesn’t necessarily matter who is starting or coming off the bench. It’s how we want to play and how we’re establishing our game.

“When we’re establishing our game our guys are confident. Our guys feel they can win in any building against anybody. We have to do a much better job at home. Our guys understand that. But Wayne is a pro’s pro. So he doesn’t get lost in his own mind whether he’s starting or coming off the bench. He’s one of those ‘Whatever you need from me coach, I’m just here to contribute.'”

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