MIAMI — Rodney McGruder and Kelly Olynyk continue to move closer to their respective returns, but their status for Friday’s game against the Pelicans is still uncertain.
Coach Erik Spoelstra said Olynyk (strained left shoulder) will be listed as doubtful for the Heat’s game in New Orleans. But Spoelstra was less clear on McGruder, who has not played yet this season due to preseason leg surgery to repair a left tibia stress fracture in October.
After going through his first full practice just before the All-Star break, McGruder went through his second full 5-on-5 practice Wednesday when the Heat returned from the week-long hiatus in their schedule. But Spoelstra still wouldn’t commit to playing McGruder on Friday.
“It’s hard to say at this point,” Spoelstra said Wednesday when asked if McGruder will make his return against the Pelicans, “because these are big workloads and we have to evaluate how he feels tomorrow. The big picture, these are only two days in the last several months that he’s had competitive five on five. Typically we’d like to see a lot more than that and some game opportunities. But I love where he’s progressing.”
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. But he admitted that he’s not in the basketball shape he wants to be in yet.
“I’ve been doing a little more with practicing and just conditioning, preparing myself for when the time comes on my return that I’m ready to play,” McGruder said Wednesday in his first interview with reporters since his surgery. “No limitations from [the injury]. Just taking it day by day, getting my conditioning and things back up. So I’m good.”
When McGruder does return, he believes he can add energy and will “try to be a spark in the minutes that I do play, just try to give life to the team and just make winning plays.”
McGruder made 65 starts for the injured Justise Winslow and averaged 6.4 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.6 assists as a rookie last season. But that starting spot might not be there when McGruder returns, as the Heat will have 12 players who can make a case to be in the rotation when McGruder and Olynyk are back from injury.
“I’m just here to help my teammates,” McGruder said. “Even if I don’t as many minutes as I did in the past, I’m just here to help my teammates and just breathe life into them and just encourage them and just bring whatever to the team. If coach implements me in any way that he can, I will step up and do that. I’m just here to give life to the team.”
While McGruder was able to go through the full practice Wednesday, Olynyk was limited to non-contact work. The 7-footer has missed the Heat’s past four games.
“Not even at that point right now,” Spoelstra said when asked if Olynyk is close to returning. “Obviously how he feels tomorrow, he will do more than he was today. But he did not do contact today.”