Injury-ravaged Miami Heat not eligible to add additional roster spot — why?

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra instructs his team in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics, Friday, Dec. 30, 2016, in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra instructs his team in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics, Friday, Dec. 30, 2016, in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

The Heat are shorthanded, but not shorthanded enough apparently.

Even though three players on the current 15-man roster could miss the rest of the season, Miami is not eligible to add an additional player as reinforcement.

Justise Winslow will undergo shoulder surgery Thursday to repair a torn labrum in his right (non-shooting) shoulder, Josh McRoberts is out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his left foot, and Chris Bosh has been away from the team since failing his preseason physical.

But in order for Miami to add a 16th player to the roster under the NBA’s hardship rule, an NBA doctor would have to confirm that four total players would miss an additional two weeks after sitting out at least three consecutive games. The prolonged absence of Winslow, McRoberts and Bosh isn’t enough, as the Heat would need one more player to miss an extended amount of time to qualify for the additional roster spot.

Heat center Hassan Whiteside has missed the past three games with a right retinal contusion, but he’s been cleared to rejoin the team this weekend in the middle of its six-game road trip. With Whiteside not expected to miss an additional two weeks, he does not count toward the four-player total needed to qualify for the hardship rule.

Injuries have hurt Miami since the start of the season. 14 Heat players (including Chris Bosh) have combined to miss 151 games due to injuries over the first 37 games of the season.

Injuries have forced Miami to use 15 different starting lineups this season. The Heat began the road trip with just eight healthy players available in Tuesday’s loss to the Suns, but played with 11 healthy bodies in Wednesday’s win over the Kings with the return of Dion Waiters, James Johnson and Tyler Johnson.

Starting Thursday, NBA teams can sign players to 10-day contracts. Teams can sign a player to two 10-day contracts before they have to sign that player for the remainder of the season or release him.

With Sioux Falls Skyforce point guard Briante Weber ranked as the top NBA prospect in the D-League’s “Prospect Watch” Top 25 rankings, there is a chance another NBA team will steal him from the Heat’s D-League affiliate.

Weber, who auditioned for the Heat’s final roster spot in the preseason, is averaging 13.6 points, 8.1 rebounds, 6.9 assists and 2.9 steals in Sioux Falls this season. Although Weber is a member of the Heat’s D-League affiliate, he can currently be signed by any NBA team.

With Miami’s roster maxed out at 15 players, the Heat don’t have space to add Weber and keep NBA teams from signing him away.

As Albert Nahmad from the Heat Hoops blog noted, the Heat could apply for a disabled player exception for Winslow. If an NBA-designated physician determines that Winslow is “substantially more likely than not” to be unable to play through June 15, the Heat would receive a $1.3 million disabled player exception — 50 percent of Winslow’s salary this season.

Miami could also apply for a $2.9 million disabled player exception for McRoberts. But with the possibility of McRoberts returning this season not being ruled out, it’s probably less likely that a physician would determine that he’s unable to play through June 15.

The deadline to apply for a disabled player exception is Jan. 15. With the Heat not eligible to add an additional roster spot under the hardship rule, they would have to open up a roster spot to use the exception.

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