MIAMI — Injuries have hurt the Heat since the start of the season. But for once, Miami will benefit — even if just a little — from its long list of injuries.
The Heat have been granted an additional roster spot on top of the NBA’s standard 15-player limit under the NBA’s hardship rule, coach Erik Spoelstra confirmed after Monday’s practice. Miami has not filled the 16th roster spot yet, but it is expected to use it on forward Okaro White.
“We were granted permission to get the 16th player,” Spoelstra said. “We probably felt like we could have got that player maybe six weeks ago. But unfortunately we had that many people out at the same time right now.”
White — who is in the middle of a strong season with the Heat’s D-League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce — was expected to work out for the team in Miami on Monday with the plan to sign him Tuesday before the Heat’s home game against the Rockets.
With the Heat expected to sign White to a 10-day contract, waiting an extra day to sign him on a game day will help the team make the most of that time. 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.
The 6-foot-8 White, from Florida State, is averaging 18.4 points and 8.7 rebounds in 23 games for the Skyforce this season. The 24-year-old averaged 5.7 points and 4.3 rebounds for the Heat during the preseason before being waived.
With the Heat expected to use the additional roster spot on White, that will leave guard Briante Weber, who was one of the final players cut by Miami during the preseason, in Sioux Falls. Weber, who is ranked as the second-best NBA prospect in the D-League’s “Prospect Watch” Top 25 rankings, is averaging 15.4 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.2 assists for the Skyforce this season.
The Heat’s decision to bring up White over Weber is a “positional” one, according to a source. With forwards Josh McRoberts and Justise Winslow out, White will give Miami another option at that position.
Weber had a tryout with the Philadelphia 76ers last week and can currently be signed by any NBA team because he is not under contract with the Heat.
“We’re not going to talk about him specifically,” Spoelstra said when asked if the Heat would use the extra roster spot to sign White. “But the great thing about our relationship in Sioux Falls is that it’s our staff, it’s our culture, it’s our system and we’re in constant communication with them. It’s a great set up because guys get to go away in the frozen tundra and just concentrate on the team and getting better at their craft in our system. So we’ve been able to develop guys and we feel that all the guys that we’ve developed that we’re still connected to. We won’t be able to sign all of them this year. But we keep daily tabs on those guys because we want them to do well, we want them to improve.”
In order for Miami to qualify for the 16th roster spot under the hardship rule, an NBA doctor had to confirm that four total players would miss an additional two weeks after sitting out at least three consecutive games. With Josh Richardson having already missed three consecutive games with a sprained left foot, Miami meets that requirement with Chris Bosh (blood clots), McRoberts (foot) and Winslow (shoulder) also out.
The fact that the Heat were granted the extra roster spot means that Richardson is expected to miss at least two more weeks. The 23-year-old guard was still in a walking boot during Monday’s practice.
“He’s still in a boot. He’s feeling better. It is just a sprain,” Spoelstra said. “But it wasn’t responding as quickly as any of us thought. But it is responding. We just have to be patient with it. Once he gets out of the boot, then we’ll progress him to the next step. But it looked like that was going to be a week to 10 days anyway from now, realistically. We’ll re-evaluate him after the week.”