MIAMI – For Dion Waiters, the best feeling will be stepping on a plane, just being with his teammates with the hopes of playing for the first time since late November.
Waiters has missed 19 games since an MRI revealed he had suffered a torn muscle in his groin area, an injury he said occurred about 2 ½ week prior to the diagnosis. He has not gone through a full practice or accompanied the team on a road trip since.
Today could be the first big step as Waiters is expected to be on the flight when Miami heads out for its season-long six-game road trip which starts Tuesday in Phoenix.
Coach Erik Spoelstra said he hopes Waiters is able to travel.
“I’m trying to play. That’s my whole main focus, just trying to get back out there.”
Waiters, who is averaging 14.2 points, 3.9 assists and 3.4 rebounds in 16 games, is not sure what to expect when he starts practicing full speed. He has been rehabbing, conditioning and shooting during and after practice. He started running straight line sprints a few weeks ago.
“It feels good as far as me just working out full speed and not holding back on anything,” he said. “It’s up to me just to see how I move laterally, just chasing guys and things like that. I haven’t done that.”
Waiters’ return would be welcome by this embattled team that has lost five in a row and eight of nine. Miami (10-25) played the Pistons without four starters from opening night; Waiters, Goran Dragic (back spasms), Justise Winslow (shoulder stinger) and Hassan Whiteside (poked in eye).
The availability of each for Tuesday’s game is unknown. Dragic, though, worked out before the Detroit game and said his back is feeling better. Dragic started feeling it during the Dec. 23 game in New Orleans and has missed three games.
Winslow and Whiteside both were injured late in Friday’s loss in Boston.
“Sometimes it’s frustrating to watch knowing that you can be out there just making a difference and even just going to battle with your guys,” Waiters said. “I’ve never been the type of guy that likes to miss any games, let alone this long. I’ve never missed this many games in my career. It’s very frustrating, man, but I’m glad to be back. Hopefully I’ll (start) the new year right and on the right path, and just turn this thing around.”
Waiters, though, said he has learned a lesson. He now believes trying to play through the injury made it worse.
“I think just early in the year when I played with it, like 10 games, kind of just ignoring it, to be honest, made it worse, I guess,” he said. “That’s what it was, just telling them the truth of how I really feel and just being smart about the whole situation so I don’t get in this situation again.”