The Heat finally received positive injury news — James Johnson, Goran Dragic return vs. Pelicans

Los Angeles Clippers forward Sam Dekker (7) looks to pass as Miami Heat forward James Johnson (16) defends in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017, in Miami. Miami won the game 90-85. (AP Photo/Joe Skipper)

MIAMI — The Heat received good injury news, finally.

Forward James Johnson (right ankle bursitis) and point guard Goran Dragic (sore left elbow) will play Saturday against the Pelicans. Both Johnson and Dragic missed three games with their respective injuries.

Both will play through some pain against New Orleans, as Johnson admitted he’s still feeling some of the effects from his injury. Dragic started the game and Johnson came off the Heat’s bench.

“Feel it? Yeah,” Johnson said of his ankle. “But is it more mental, that’s why I’m feeling it? Maybe. But the things I did upstairs, the tests I’ve been doing on it have been feeling fine. So I don’t want good game, bad game, OK game. I don’t want no excuse of what happened.

“I mean if you ask any of the guys, there’s a lot of lingering discomfort, pain around this team. So it’s take it however your threshold of pain can last.”

But the Heat are still shorthanded.

Starting shooting guard Dion Waiters is unavailable Saturday after spraining his troublesome left ankle on a drive to the basket in the first quarter of Friday’s victory over Dallas. He left the game with 3:26 remaining in the opening quarter and never returned.

Both an X-ray and MRI on Waiters’ ankle came back negative.

“It’s swollen. He’s dealing with pain,” coach Erik Spoelstra said in advance of Saturday’s game. “So, we don’t have a timetable right now. We’ll just go through the process of trying to get his ankle feeling better and doing the rehab, doing the corrective exercises and taking the next step.”

Considering Waiters’ left ankle has been bothering him since last season, it’s concerning. He missed the final 13 games of the 2016-17 season after spraining the ankle on March 17.

But Spoelstra said Waiters’ latest injury doesn’t necessarily have to do with the past issues he’s had with his left ankle.

“If you watch the film, he just rolled it,” he said. “It could have happened with his right ankle. So it’s not related other than the fact that ankle has given him some problems over his career. That’s not unusual when you sprain an ankle. Sometimes you can do that one repeatedly.”

Waiters revealed during training camp that he could have had surgery on the ankle, but he decided against it because he would have been forced to miss eight to 10 months. In this scenario of undergoing surgery shortly after suffering the injury in March, he would have entered free agency last summer as a player who wouldn’t have been available until somewhere between November and January.

Waiters ended up signing a four-year, $52 million contract with the Heat in July. $1.1 million of his salary this season is tied to a bonus that kicks in if he plays in at least 70 of Miami’s 82 games, raising his 2017-18 salary from $11 million to $12.1 million.

Saturday marks the third game Waiters has missed this season, as he missed two in November for the birth of his daughter. The 26-year-old is averaging 14.3 points on 39.8 percent shooting and 3.8 assists in 30 games this season.

Waiters joins a long Heat injury report that also includes Justise Winslow (strained left knee), Hassan Whiteside (bone bruise on left knee), Rodney McGruder (left tibia surgery) and Okaro White (left foot surgery).

After Saturday’s game, eight Heat players have combined to miss 88 games due to injury or illness this season.

Whiteside is moving closer to a return, as he continues to participate in court work. Saturday marks the 13th consecutive game Whiteside has missed with the injury.

“He’s been working out twice a day,” Spoelstra said of Whiteside. “One workout is always a non-impact, full conditioning workout either on the bike or in the pool. Then the last few days, handful of days he’s been doing court work and he’s been making a lot of progress.”

As for Winslow, there is still no timetable for his return.

“He’s getting closer. … He’ll do pool work and bike work right now,” Spoelstra said. “We’ll re-evaluate tomorrow and see if we can scale that up.”

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