Josh Richardson rejoins Heat in Cleveland after originally staying in Miami to recover from sprained ankle

CLEVELAND — The Heat have brought in reinforcement.

Josh Richardson rejoined the team in Cleveland, but will not play in Friday’s game against the Cavaliers. The plan is for Richardson to return to action Saturday to play “some minutes” against the Bulls in Chicago.

After the decision was made to bring Richardson up to Cleveland on Thursday, he took a late flight to rejoin the team. Richardson went through shootaround Friday in advance of the Heat’s game against the Cavaliers and will also go through a conditioning workout before being evaluated for Saturday’s game.

“It’s great,” Richardson said of being back with the team. “I hate having to sit at home and watch the games on TV. Even if I’m not playing, I’m with the team at least I can tell them stuff in timeouts I’m seeing, encourage them, little stuff. I can’t do that at home. It’s good to be back.”

Miami Heat guard Josh Richardson (0) shoots as Atlanta Hawks guard Tim Hardaway Jr. (10) defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016, in Miami. The Hawks defeated the Heat 93-90. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Miami Heat guard Josh Richardson (0) shoots as Atlanta Hawks guard Tim Hardaway Jr. (10) defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016, in Miami. The Hawks defeated the Heat 93-90. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

The guard missed the first game of the three-game trip as he continued his recovery from a sprained right ankle in Miami. He suffered the ankle injury against the Celtics on Nov. 28 and hasn’t played since.

Richardson was one of five injured players who originally did not travel with the team to start the trip. But Richardson was the only one who was healthy enough join the Heat during the trip, as Luke Babbitt (hip flexor), James Johnson (rotator cuff strain), Justise Winslow (sprained wrist) and Dion Waiters (torn groin muscle) are still recovering from their injuries in Miami.

“I wouldn’t say that they’re far away,” coach Erik Spoelstra said of the four players who remaining in Miami for treatment. “Everybody is being re-evaluated every single day. They’re making progress. They’re not at the point where they could play in either one of these games.”

When Richardson is healthy enough to play, the Heat will have 10 available players. And when Richardson is healthy enough to play, he plans to do it without the bulky knee brace he’s been wearing since he returned from a partially torn MCL in his right knee earlier this season.

“I didn’t really like it all. I felt like I was just dragging it around,” Richardson said of the knee brace. “I like to be fast and slim and that thing is big. So, I didn’t like it.”

Richardson is averaging 10.9 points on 39.4 percent shooting this season. He is one of 12 Heat players (including Chris Bosh) who have combined to miss 89 games due to injuries over the first 22 games of the season.

With the Heat’s roster still limited due to a list of injured players, the possibility of adding a 16th player to the roster under the NBA’s hardship rule is in play. But in order for Miami to qualify for this, an NBA doctor would have to confirm that four total players would miss an additional two weeks.

It’s uncertain whether Waiters, Babbitt, Johnson or Winslow will be unavailable for another two weeks to go with Bosh’s absence. Making it even more unlikely that the Heat would use the hardship rule is that when any of the four players who were ruled as being sidelined for two additional weeks return, Miami must get back down to the normal 15-man roster maximum.

“We looked into it,” Spoelstra said of the hardship rule. “It’s kind of an awkward rule — after three games and then the clock would have to start. And it’s not retroactive because we probably would have already had some of those guys that probably could have counted. I’ve got my fingers crossed that those guys will not be an additional couple weeks and I don’t feel that they would be.”

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