MIAMI — Justise Winslow is getting closer to making his return to the court, but it doesn’t look like the brace on his injured wrist is coming off any time soon.
After going through shootaround Monday for the first time since shutting it down to recover from a sore left wrist, Winslow missed his 16th consecutive game with the injury. The Heat are hopeful the 20-year-old will be able to return at some point during their current six-game homestand, which ends Dec. 22 against the Lakers.
But coach Erik Spoelstra revealed that Winslow could have to wear a brace on his left wrist off the court for the rest of the season. Spoelstra called the wrist injury a “sprain” that kept being re-aggregated as Winslow tried to play through it.
“He probably will be in one for a large part of the season whenever he’s not on the court,” Spoelstra said of Winslow’s wrist brace. “That’s just to stabilize it. Anybody who’s had wrist issues, you have to wear a brace when you’re not active and it helps. Any little bit helps. But that’s more precautionary. He doesn’t necessarily need it. It’s already starting to feel a lot better.”
Winslow hasn’t played in a game since the Heat’s loss in San Antonio on Nov. 14. Although he’s missed more time than most expected, Spoelstra and the Heat hope Winslow’s extended time off will help him avoid surgery.
“I think right now all of our hopes are that he won’t need it,” Spoelstra said when asked if Winslow will need surgery on his left wrist at some point. “That’s why we went through extensive treatment and rest. Right now it looks like we won’t need to go that route.”
While Winslow is still out, forwards Luke Babbitt (strained right hip flexor) and James Johnson (strained right rotator cuff) will warm up with the intention to play against the Wizards on Monday night. Babbitt returns after a five-game absence and Johnson returns after a four-game absence.
But just because Johnson is ready to return doesn’t mean that his shoulder is 100 percent.
“It’s tender, but it’s just sore,” Johnson said. “You get sore from lifting weights, you get sore from running. You can’t really get away from being sore. Keep rehabbing, keep doing what I’m doing. I think it’s going to get stronger in the long run.”
After playing games with eight and nine available players over the past week due to a list of injuries, the Heat will have 12 available players against the Wizards.
Entering Monday’s game against Washington, 12 Heat players (including Chris Bosh) have combined to miss 100 games due to injuries over the first 24 games of the season.