Hassan Whiteside is still in Miami recovering from a right retinal contusion after the Heat’s eye specialist recommended he didn’t fly with the team to Phoenix on Monday.
Erik Spoelstra explained the decision before Tuesday’s game against the Suns.
“It’s not necessarily that something could happen,” Spoelstra said to reporters in Phoenix of Whiteside not being cleared to fly with the Heat. “But it was the smartest thing to do once he had the MRI the next day and got his eye checked out by our eye specialist. He recommended that he didn’t travel and then to reevaluate him on Wednesday.”
Whiteside suffered the injury when he was inadvertently poked in his right eye by Jae Crowder late in the fourth quarter of Friday’s loss to the Celtics. He has already missed two games with the injury — Sunday’s loss to the Pistons and Tuesday’s game against the Suns.
With the Heat traveling to Sacramento to face the Kings on Wednesday on the second night of a back-to-back, Whiteside is expected to miss that game, too. The Heat’s $98 million center will be reevaluated by the eye doctor Wednesday and Spoelstra has not ruled out Whiteisde joining the team at some point during the six-game trip.
“He is getting better,” Spoelstra said of Whiteside. “He’s going to see the doctor tomorrow again to see how his eye looks. But it was a scratch and a contusion. But he is starting to get better.”
Along with Whiteside, the Heat could also get Justise Winslow back in the middle of the road trip. Winslow stayed in Miami to recover from a right shoulder injury.
However, Josh McRoberts is not expected to join the team any time soon. He’s out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his left foot.
Guard Goran Dragic made his return Tuesday against the Suns after missing three of the last four games with a back injury. James Johnson (illness) and Tyler Johnson (migraine) did not play.
The Heat had eight healthy players available against the Suns. Teams must dress at least eight players for every game, according to NBA rules.
Dion Waiters still out: Dion Waiters is inching closer to making his return.
The Heat guard traveled with the team to Phoenix, and practiced Monday and went through shootaround Tuesday. But he’s still not ready to play, as he missed his 20th consecutive game with a Pectineus muscle in his groin.
Waiters is expected to return at some point during the Heat’s six-game trip, maybe as as soon as Wednesday night against the Kings. When the 25-year-old does return, Spoelstra will bring him off the bench to work him in slowly.
In the 16 games Waiters played in this season before the injury, he started each one at shooting guard. But with guard Josh Richardson healthy and playing well, it will be interesting to see if Waiters gets his starting spot back.
In the eight games before Waiters went out with the injury, he was playing his best basketball of the season. He averaged 18.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists during that stretch.
But Waiter’s defense was even more impressive. Players are shooting 37 percent when defended by Waiters this season (third-best opponent field goal percentage in the NBA among guards who have played at least 15 games).
“What he brings is another multidimensional player,” Spoelstra said of Waiters. “He can defend multiple positions. He was showing that at a high level right before he got injured, being able to guard ones, twos, threes and in some cases fours on switches. Much stronger and sturdier than even he would appear to be able to guard bigger players.
“Offensively, he can do a little bit of everything, which we need and we like. He can put the ball on the floor and make plays for other guys, create his own offense when you get stuck at the end of the clock. Quite frankly, he’s another body and a talent. Yeah, we certainly can use him.”