MIAMI — Life without Dwyane Wade and Hassan Whiteside will continue for the Heat.
Wade will miss his fourth consecutive game with a mild left hamstring strain and Whiteside will miss his fifth consecutive game with left hip pain when the Heat host the Nuggets on Monday. Both are “progressing” and moving closer to a return, coach Erik Spoelstra said in advance of the contest.
Wade participated in Monday morning’s shootaround, as he played the role of Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler during the Heat’s game preparation. Whiteside did not participate in shootaround.
The Heat enter Monday with a 6.5-game lead over the Pistons for the Eastern Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot with 12 regular-season games remaining. But even with Miami set to make the postseason barring a total collapse, that doesn’t mean Wade and Whiteside will get more time off than they need to recover from their injuries.
“Not that kind of caution. There’s only health caution,” Spoelstra said when asked if the Heat are taking a cautious approach with the playoffs approaching. “We’re not going to bring them back until they’re ready to come back. We can’t look at it as other teams are looking at it — that we’re going to make sure we’re ready for the postseason. That’s not how it’s going to be for us. It’s go time and both of those guys know that. They’ve been very committed and diligent behind the scenes to working. But we have to do it smart, intelligently.”
While the Heat may be in good position to make the playoffs, they do still have the opportunity to improve their position in the standings. Miami is one-half game behind No. 7 Milwaukee, two games behind No. 6 Philadelphia, three games behind No. 5 Indiana and No. 4 Washington, and 3.5 games behind No. 3 Cleveland.
“I don’t think we ever really worry about getting caught,” Heat guard Tyler Johnson said of the East standings. “When you start looking behind you, that’s usually when you get caught. We’ve always been trying to fight and move up. I think we’ve lost a couple ones we felt maybe we shouldn’t have. But at the same time, I think everything is a learning experience down the stretch because most of us haven’t really gone through anything like that.”
Derrick Jones Jr. rejoins Heat: The announcement was made before Monday’s game that wing player Derrick Jones Jr. rejoined the Heat as part of his two-way contract. Jones returns to the Heat with three NBA days remaining on his deal.
Players signed to a two-way contract can spend up to 45 days with their NBA teams during the season and the rest of the time must be spent with the NBA team’s developmental affiliate.
After a two-way player has reached their 45-day NBA limit, they either must be converted to a standard NBA contract, remain in the G League for the rest of the season or be waived. If the Heat decide to convert Jones to a standard contract, they would need to open a spot on their 15-man roster to make room.
But after the March 24 end of the G League season, two-way contract players are allowed to spend the rest of the regular season on NBA rosters regardless of how many NBA days are remaining on their deals. These players are not eligible for the NBA playoffs, however, unless their contracts are converted to a standard NBA deal by the final day of the NBA regular season.