Heat forward Luke Babbitt remains questionable for tonight at Charlotte; Josh McRoberts goes through full contact practice

Heat forward Luke Babbitt suffered a strained hip flexor in Sunday’s loos to Denver. He is questionable for tonight’s game in Charlotte. (AP Photo/Joel Auerbach)

CHARLOTTE – Starting forward Luke Babbitt did not do any work at shoot-around today, yet the Miami Heat have not ruled him out of tonight’s crucial game against the Hornets.

Babbitt said his strained hip flexor is “pretty sore” but he is pushing to return. He was injured during the Heat’s loss to Denver on Sunday.

“It’s questionable,” said Babbitt, who is averaging 4.8 points while shooting 41.4 percent on 3 pointers. “I definitely want to be there with my teammates. Just want to get as much treatment as possible the next few days and see how it feels.”

Coach Erik Spoelstra has limited options at power forward if Babbitt is unable to play, including rookie Okaro White, super-sub James Johnson or veteran Udonis Haslem.

White has played in 30 games since being called up from Sioux Falls and being signed to a two-year contract, but he has yet to start. He is averaging 3.0 points and 2.7 rebounds and 13:25 minutes per game.

Johnson has had a breakout season – 12.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 79 3-pointers, all career highs – while playing in 71 games, all as a reserve. Spoelstra has said in the past he does not want to mess with the chemistry he and Tyler Johnson have coming off the bench.

Haslem has been in just 16 games this season and has not played since Feb. 4, a stretch of 26 games.

“We’ve had enough scenarios where different guys have had to step up, different lineups, probably the most different lineups of anybody in the league,” Spoelstra said. “Our guys are used to it. We’re not making any excuses coming into this game. We have none.”

The Heat have used 21 different lineups this season.

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One player who could have filled that role but still is not ready is Josh McRoberts, who has not played since Dec. 23 because of a stress reaction in his left foot.

McRoberts, though, went through a full-contact practice on Monday for the first time since the injury.

“I love the progress he’s been making,” said Spoelstra, who would not rule out McRoberts playing before the end of the season.

“He’s been playing some two-on-two with the guys and yesterday he practiced full contact for the first time. It was a short stint but that is certainly a good sign.”

Babbitt feels a sense of urgency to get back out there with just five game remaining and Heat entering tonight one-half game out of the final playoff spot in the East.

“These games are obviously huge for us,” he said. “This is a huge trip. That’s why I want to be on this trip and see if I can get it healed as quickly as possible. These are must win games for us, these are playoff type games for us. At the very least I’m happy to be here supporting my teammates but there’s a huge sense of urgency.”

The Heat conclude the three-game trip in Toronto on Friday and Washington on Saturday.

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