Heat’s Erik Spoelstra says there’s a storyline that hasn’t drawn much attention, and it involves Rodney McGruder

Miami Heat guard Rodney McGruder shoot free throws during training this season at FAU. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

MIAMI — Rodney McGruder’s season was taken away from him before it really even began.

“That’s a storyline that will never get out,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “But Rodney was on his way. He was probably the most productive player in training camp and through the beginning of preseason, and he had basically 80 percent of his regular season taken away from him. Then a totally different role than he anticipated and probably what he certainly was going to earn based on his offseason.”

After making the Heat’s regular-season roster on the final cut down day in 2016-17, McGruder 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 an undrafted rookie. McGruder, who had never made an NBA roster after two years in the developmental league and a year in Hungary, stepped in for the injured Justise Winslow as the Heat’s starting small forward and impressed with hustle and defensive effort.

But McGruder never got a chance to build on that productive rookie season, as he was forced to undergo preseason surgery to repair a stress fracture in his left tibia in October. The 6-foot-4 wing missed the first 60 games of this past season, with the injury negating any momentum he had entering the year.

“I was frustrated at the beginning,” said McGruder, who was in the middle of a strong preseason (7.2 points on 44.4 percent shooting on 3-pointers) before suffering the setback. “I talked to a lot of people and they said the negativity hinders your recovery to heal. I tried to remain positive. I healed faster than doctors expected. I had a great support system that encouraged me to keep pushing forward.”

McGruder finally made his return on Feb. 27, with less than two months remaining in the regular season. The consistent role he had earned the previous season was pretty much gone, as the emergence of Josh Richardson, return of Dwyane Wade and a healthy Winslow crowded the depth chart at the wing position and kept McGruder from playing heavy minutes.

McGruder ended up playing in 18 of the 22 regular-season games he was available for after returning from the injury, starting two and logging 16.6 minutes of court time per contest. The 26-year-old averaged 5.1 points on 49.3 percent shooting, 1.8 rebounds and 0.9 assists.

The playoffs were especially difficult for McGruder, and not just because the Heat were eliminated by the Sixers in the first round. McGruder’s playing time dipped to 4.0 minutes per game in the postseason.

“I want to play,” he said when asked if he wants to be back in the Heat’s rotation this upcoming season. “I am happy for my teammates. I love cheering them on. I want to be playing in the playoffs. I want to contribute to some wins.”

McGruder is expected to be back with Miami this upcoming season, even with his $1.5 million salary for 2018-19 yet to be guaranteed. The Heat have until June 30 to guarantee the final season on the three-year contract he signed in the summer of 2016, and they will because it’s a cheap deal for a player who has already proven to be an important part of their rotation when healthy.

“It added fuel to the fire,” McGruder said of the injury that derailed his sophomore NBA year. “I had a whole season taken away. Just be smarter in the things I do this summer in my workouts and not put the stress on my body and protect my craft. I have been talking to the organization and my family about trying to be smart.”

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