MIAMI – Wayne Ellington has started 13 games this season. In that role he scores more but is less efficient.
Now, Ellington likely will be thrust into the Miami Heat starting lineup for the foreseeable future with Dion Waiters having to be carried off the court Friday after spraining his left ankle.
“I don’t think it’s going to change for me too much,” Ellington said after scoring seven points in 18 minutes of Miami’s 123-105 victory over Minnesota on Friday.
“I’ve done both, I’m comfortable with whatever the team needs me to do. I’ll be prepared.”
Waiters rolled his ankle on a play in which he drove to the basket and was fouled by Andrew Wiggins. Waiters spent most of Friday night and Saturday at the team’s facility getting treatment but coach Erik Spoelstra said no timetable has been put on his return.
“He was in the locker room doing treatment pretty much all night last night and then early this morning,” Spoelstra said Saturday from the Heat’s annual Family Festival. “We got on it right away but we’ll just have to see how it progresses from here.
“I think it’s too early to tell right now to put a timeline on it. I know everybody wants a timeline, he wants a timeline. He’s young and heals fast. He healed very fast from the last one and he rolled that one all the way over. There’s no way to really tell until we get through this process.”
X-rays taken Friday were negative and Spoelstra said there are no plans for an MRI.
Waiters sprained the same ankle about six weeks ago in Minnesota. That injury forced Waiters to miss three games. This one appears to be much worse.
“When things like that happen to a player that’s so integral to what we’re doing right now it’s tough,” Heat forward James Johnson said. “But we gathered ourselves, sat down in a timeout and we’re all in regardless of what happens.
“We don’t make excuses. I think that toughness we built just carries on.”
The Heat led by 10 when Waiters was injured.
The Heat – 34-35 and holding the No. 8 seed in the East entering Saturday’s game after winning 23-of-28 – is buoyed by a team that has overcome several setbacks this season. Miami has lost 276 player games to injury or illness.
“This year we’ve had so many injuries the other guys have had a lot of minutes and experience playing different positions and that’s only going to help us because now we have guys who can play multiple positions,” leading scorer Goran Dragic said.
“Of course we want Dion to come back fast and be healthy but we are comfortable enough that somebody else is going to step in.”
Waiters is third on the Heat with 15.8 points per game and second with 4.3 assists. He has been a major reason for the Heat’s turnaround, averaging 18.9 points and 4.9 assists during the streak entering Friday.
Ellington is one of seven players averaging in double figures, 11.3 per game. His scoring jumps to 12.2 as a starter (11.0 as a reserve), but he is shooting 38.8 percent when starting and 44.1 percent when coming off the bench.
Ellington leads the Heat with 123 3-pointers and has stepped up his game lately, averaging 14.1 points in March while shooting 50.6 percent from the floor and 46.6 on threes.
“You got to adjust the way you play especially with the personnel you’re out there with,” Ellington said. “We’ve all been all over the place. We’ve all started, we’ve all come off the bench. It’s been a little bit crazy. It might be to our benefit now.”
The Heat especially will miss Waiters’ drive and kick game and his ability to run the offense. Waiters is sixth in the league in drives to the basket. Dragic is second.
Ellington is a classic spot up shooter with as quick a release as there is in the game.
And Dragic’s game will be affected. He was able to play off the ball with Waiters in the game, allowing Waiters to run the point at times. Ellington is more of a classic shooting guard.
“With Wayne I feel comfortable but probably I’m going to handle the ball a little bit more but I’m already used to that,” Dragic said.
The only other option Spoeltra would have is starting second-year guard Josh Richardson, who has struggled in the 12 games he’s played since returning from a foot sprain, shooting 32.2 percent from the floor (20 percent from three) while averaging 5.2 points.
Spoelstra has not been tempted to start Tyler Johnson and won’t now. Tyler Johnson picked up the bulk of the scoring load Friday after Waiters went down, scoring 23 points.