Heat guard Dion Waiters admits ankle causing him to lose some explosiveness late in games

Miami’s Dion Waiters drives to the basket against the San Antonio Spurs. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

MIAMI – Dion Waiters is frustrated. Frustrated by the Heat’s slow start. Frustrated that sometimes he does not have the explosiveness late in games that he has at the start.

But, Waiters said he was not frustrated because he didn’t play the entire fourth quarter of Saturday’s loss to Boston.

“That’s the coach, man, he makes his decision,” Waiters said today following shootaround in preparation for tonight’s game against Minnesota. “I can’t. … question his decision. Guys fought hard and fought back into the game. We just came up short.

“I can’t really sit back and question that. It’s over. I don’t really live in the past man. Seriously.”

Coach Erik Spoelstra said he wasn’t happy with the starting five and was looking for anything that worked after the Heat fell behind by 11 points after three quarters and stuck with the lineup that rallied to get the Heat to within two points.

Waiters played just 24 minutes, was 2-of-8 from the field and finished with eight points. He came out with 3:23 to play in the third quarter and never returned.

[Heat center Hassan Whiteside goes through shootaround but ruled out for tonight’s game against Minnesota]

[Heat ‘aired it out’ in team meeting to discuss 2-3 start, but Whiteside still ‘very doubtful’ for Monday’s game]

Waiters, 25, has had an uneven start to the season after re-signing with Miami for four years, $52 million last summer. His strength is his explosiveness and ability to get to the rim. He still is taking the ball to the basket with 48.5 percent of his points this season from inside the paint as opposed 36.8 last season. But Waiters said, although he feels he has that explosiveness early in games, the left ankle that he severely sprained March 17 saps some of that ability late in games.

“I’ve always got that – like at the beginning of the game – I’ve always got that explosive first step,” he said. “Even on one leg I’ve got that explosive first step.

“Then I’ll feel it.”

Waiters is averaging 8.8 points on 48.6 percent shooting in the first half of the first five games. Those numbers slip to 4.4 points on 33 percent shooting in the second half. Still, that does not force Waiters to back off from what he does best.

“Even on one leg nobody can stay in front of me,” he said. “You can’t stop me from getting to the basket on one leg. That’s just my mindset, my mentality. Don’t let that affect my play because it’s sore if it might get tight or whatever. Nah, I’m still going to attack. I’m still going to do what I do. That’s my strength.”

Goran Dragic said its apparent when the ankle is bothering Waiters.

“You can see because he’s such an explosive player,” Dragic said. “That first step, if you have ankle problems that’s the worst. That first step is kind of what you hesitate (to take on a sore ankle). You can see that he’s not moving as well maybe in the past. But the only thing he can do is do treatments and hopefully that thing is going to get better.”

Waiters is averaging 13.2 points on 42.2 percent shooting (30.8 percent on 3 pointers) through the first five games this season. He is looking for that rhythm that allowed him to average 18.7 points while shooting 47 percent during a 23-game stretch of the second half of last season that ended when he was injured.

“Dion will get his rhythm and I’ll find ways to get him more involved and get him into his strength zones, that’s my responsibility as well,” Spoelstra said.

Spoelstra, though, added that of all the things on his list, “that’s not at the top off the list, it’s on the list because I think with a better overall collective rhythm of how I want to play I think that will be taken care of on its own.”

Sore ankle or not, Waiters continues to show that swagger that has defined his career.

“When I’m out there I’m out there, man,” he said. “I don’t make no excuses for nothing. It is what it is. If I wake up one day and I can’t walk – hopefully that don’t happen – then there’s a problem. But if I can get up there and figure different ways, figure different things out and work on it and improve it, then I’m going to do it because I feels as though the team needs me and it’s too early in the year for this too be going on.”

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