MIAMI — Rodney McGruder continues to move closer to making his season debut.
McGruder went through his first full practice Monday since undergoing preseason leg surgery to repair a left tibia stress fracture in October. But McGruder has been ruled out for Tuesday’s road game against the Raptors and coach Erik Spoelstra does not expect the 26-year-old wing player to make his return before the upcoming All-Star break.
“He’s been building up to this,” Spoelstra said of McGruder after Monday’s practice. “So, I don’t even really like saying this was his first full practice. But it was. I know how important it was for him to be out here to actually be 5-on-5. He competed in the Hunger Games and he was fully in the mix.”
McGruder has been making a lot of progress over the past few weeks, even traveling with the Heat on their recent four-game trip earlier this month to continue his rehab.
With McGruder a full participant in Monday’s practice, it seems like he’s on track to make his return when the Heat return from the All-Star break. Miami will hold its first post All-Star break practice on Feb. 21 before resuming its schedule on Feb. 23 against the Pelicans in New Orleans.
But Spoelstra wouldn’t commit to a return timetable for McGruder.
“Today was a good step. I can’t even answer the next step until we find out how he responds tomorrow,” Spoelstra said. “I mean this was a pretty big workload today.”
McGruder’s eventual return will bring added depth to the Heat’s roster. After making Miami’s regular-season roster on the final cut down day last year, he ended up playing in a team-high 78 games — including 65 starts — and averaged 6.4 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.6 assists as a rookie.
“He’s going to bring energy, man,” center Hassan Whiteside said when asked how McGruder will help the Heat this season. “He’s going to bring even more life. He’s a guy who’s going to do all the right things, 100 percent on every play and that’s contagious.”
Heat center Kelly Olynyk is also moving closer to a return, but he will not travel with the team for their two-game trip to Toronto and Philadelphia this week. He will remain in Miami to continue his rehab from a strained left shoulder, and the All-Star break will give him even more time to recover.
“He is making a lot of progress, but he’s not ready to play right now,” Spoelstra said of Olynyk, who has missed Miami’s past two games with the injury. “So, he won’t play the next two games. We want to really treat him and make sure he’s continuing to make the progress he’s made the last few days.”