MIAMI — The Heat’s starting backcourt is whole again.
Guard Dion Waiters returned to start Monday’s game against the Magic after missing the past three games due to a sprained left ankle. Wayne Ellington started next to point guard Goran Dragic during Waiters’ absence.
It’s been a week since Waiters last played in a game, as he suffered the ankle injury in the third quarter of Miami’s win over Minnesota last Monday.
Getting Waiters back should help the Heat. The 25-year-old averaged 20.6 points on 49.7 percent shooting to go with 4.1 rebounds and 4.8 assists during Miami’s 13-game winning streak.
Miami could also get guard Josh Richardson back soon, too. Richardson, who has been out since Jan. 6 with a left foot sprain, has started taking part in contact drills and went through Monday’s shootaround.
Erik Spoelstra said Richardson is getting “very close” to making his return. The hope is that he will be able to practice Tuesday before traveling with the team to Houston for Wednesday’s game against the Rockets.
“Even if he doesn’t play, he’ll be able to train with us,” Spoelstra said when asked if Richardson will make the trip to Houston.
When Richardson does return, the Heat will lose the roster exception granted by the NBA that allowed for Miami to sign Okaro White to two 10-day contracts and sign Marcus Georges-Hunt last week.
As for Justise Winslow, he’s still in a sling as he recovers from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. The original timetable called for Winslow to wear a sling for six weeks.
With this upcoming Thursday marking six weeks since Winslow underwent shoulder surgery, coach Spoelstra said he expects the 20-year-old to begin rehab work next week after the All-Star break. Winslow is still expected to miss the rest of the season.