Miami Heat’s Wayne Ellington steps up game after improving conditioning

 

 

Wayne Ellington's game is in much better shape and so are the Heat since he returned. (AP Photo)
Wayne Ellington’s game is in much better shape and so are the Heat since he returned. (AP Photo)

MIAMI – Wayne Ellington knew something had to change.

Looking to reestablish his career after a disappointing season in Brooklyn, he had a long conversation with coach Erik Spoelstra and strength and conditioning coach Bill Foran after signing a two-year $12 million contract last summer.

“I wanted to get in the best shape that I could possibly be in,” said Ellington, Miami’s 6-foot-5, swingman. “That’s what the Miami Heat is about anyway. That’s the standard here so I put that extra work in, running and in the weight room, doing cardio and it’s paying off for me big time.”

Finally on the court after missing more than a month with a deep thigh bruise, Ellington, 29, is in his eight NBA season and is averaging 15.0 points and shooting 51.1 percent in four games, providing the Heat with outside shooting they desperately need. He’s averaged double digits twice in his career and never more than 10.4 points (2012-13 with Cleveland).

Ellington, 208 pounds, has cut his body fat in half, to 7 percent.

“He’s gotten into I think the best shape of his career,” Spoelstra said. “He’s lost as much body fat as anybody on our roster since July 20th. And when you think about somebody built like him. … He’s lost almost 20 pounds. So he’s much quicker, much faster, much more energy. He played (39) minutes Saturday night (in Portland) and he could run off screens all night long. And he’s not getting tired.”

As difficult as transforming his body was maintaining it while recovering from the thigh bruise, which occurred in the last preseason game and forced him to miss the first 16 games of the season. Ellington said that’s when he really changed his diet.

“I knew it was going to be tough for me not being able to run and not being able to ride the bike,” he said. “That’s one thing I could control, my eating habits.”

Ellington has done it both coming off the bench and starting, as he did last game as injuries continue to mount. His game is multi-faceted. He can get off a shot as quick as anybody on the team and will take the ball to the basket.

“You have to game plan for him,” Spoelstra said. “All that helps your menu. The are more things you have to game plan against that helps your offense, if you do it efficiently.”

Ellington came off the bench his first three games, his breakout being his second game when he scored 22 points, including four three pointers in the fourth quarter, of the Heat’s victory in Denver.

When Luke Babbitt was not available to play in Portland after injuring his hip the previous game, Ellington moved into the starting small forward spot.

With Justise Winslow (wrist) and Dion Waiters (groin) still out for tonight’s game against the Knicks, and Babbitt and Josh Richardson (ankle) questionable, Ellington may or may not start.

Spoelstra was asked if he sees Ellington as a long term starter.

“Not necessarily,” he said. “That’s why I told the team that right now nothing is in cement. That’s why there’s an emphasis right now in our identity and how we’re playing. So clear your mind, it doesn’t necessarily matter who is starting or coming off the bench. It’s how we want to play and how we’re establishing our game.

“When we’re establishing our game our guys are confident. Our guys feel they can win in any building against anybody. We have to do a much better job at home. Our guys understand that. But Wayne is a pro’s pro. So he doesn’t get lost in his own mind whether he’s starting or coming off the bench. He’s one of those ‘Whatever you need from me coach, I’m just here to contribute.'”

[Heat forward James Johnson disappointed in himself for letting down team in Portland]

[Heat forward Udonis Haslem shows Miami ‘pride’ by giving back to community]

[Miami Heat’s Josh McRoberts credits improvement to more time at power forward]

[Want more Heat news sent directly to your Facebook feed? Make sure to like our Heat Facebook page]

 

Miami Heat injury report keeps growing with James Johnson’s rotator cuff strain

MIAMI — The roster the Heat envisioned playing to start this season will be healthy one day.

But that day was not Monday and it won’t be Tuesday either.

Miami’s string of injuries grew Monday when coach Erik Spoelstra revealed that James Johnson did not practice due to a right rotator cuff strain. Johnson will not play in Tuesday’s home game against the Knicks. Continue reading “Miami Heat injury report keeps growing with James Johnson’s rotator cuff strain”

Heat forward James Johnson disappointed in himself for letting down team in Portland

 

James Johnson was ejected Saturday in Portland after picking up two technical fouls. (AP Photo)
James Johnson was ejected Saturday in Portland after picking up two technical fouls. (AP Photo)

MIAMI – James Johnson has played in 418 NBA games over eight season. He played in 61 games in two seasons at Wake Forest.

But Saturday in Portland was the first time he’s been ejected from a game and he could not be more disappointed in himself.

Johnson was whistled for his second technical foul with 20 remaining in the third quarter of Miami’s 99-92 loss. Coach Erik Spoelstra had decided on a seven-man rotation, mainly because of injuries, and losing Johnson was a big blow.

“I lost it,” Johnson said today following practice. “I messed up, man. I left my guys out there by themselves and that’s the moral of the story. I just wasn’t mentally strong enough to handle that.”

And now Johnson, the toughest player on the Heat (he has a second-degree black belt and perfect record in 27 MMA and kick boxing matches), will not be available for Tuesday’s home game against the Knicks after straining his right rotator cuff last week in Utah.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Johnson was able to play through the second half of the Utah game, one in which he scored a season high 24 points, with the injury but the shoulder bothered him during the off day in Portland and during the game against the Trail Blazers. Although he is out Tuesday, he is listed as day-to-day.

Missing a game because of an injury typically is unavoidable. Being ejected is something you can control.

And the Heat, despite all the injuries, were in position to win their third straight Saturday but after taking a 91-85 lead with three minutes to play, Miami was outscored 14-1 the rest of way.

“We’re already shorthanded,” Johnson said. “This team doesn’t use no excuse and I don’t use no excuse. But I know personally deep down, I felt like I hurt (the team).”

Johnson had his season high, to go along with six rebounds, to help the Heat defeat Utah the previous game. He had two points in 17 minutes before exiting the Portland game.

Johnson received his first technical for jumping in to help Goran Dragic, who fell to the ground when he was hit by Portland’s 7-foot-1 Meyers Leonard. His second was just out of frustration.

“I would more say it was built up,” he said. “It was just built up. I was frustrated and instead of just taking it in and being the man that I am, I let it get the best of me.”

“The second technical was out of character. I’m more (than) happy to get the first technical. … looking out for my guys. That’s what we do. We’re a brotherhood. I really go hard for these guys.”

As for the mounting injuries, Johnson will join Justise Winslow (wrist) and Dion Waiters (groin) on the sidelines Tuesday. Additionally, Luke Babbitt (hip) and Josh Richardson (ankle) are questionable.

Johnson said he was injured on a play in which he “swiped down on the ball.” He said it’s an injury he has dealt with before in his career.

He was asked about a timetable.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I’m different mentally. Who knows when I’m going to come back. Sooner than later, I hope.”

[Heat forward Udonis Haslem shows Miami ‘pride’ by giving back to community]

[Miami Heat’s Josh McRoberts credits improvement to more time at power forward]

[Want more Heat news sent directly to your Facebook feed? Make sure to like our Heat Facebook page]

 

 

 

Luke Babbitt will not play tonight, but Miami Heat a bit healthier with return of Derrick Williams

 

Luke Babbitt (5) hopes to return from a hip strain in a matter of days. (AP Photo)
Luke Babbitt (5) hopes to return from a hip strain in a matter of days. (AP Photo)

PORTLAND, Ore. – The Miami Heat will be slightly healthier for tonight’s 10 p.m. tip against the Trail Blazers.

While Luke Babbitt’s MRI was encouraging, the forward will not play because of a strained muscle in his hip. But forward Derrick Williams is available after missing one game because of back spasms.

“We have enough,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Everybody’s dealing with something and you just focus on what you need to do during that particular game. The last game was a perfect example of that, finishing with everybody that’s a healthy body, to grind it out and win by one in an incredibly competitive game.”

The Heat had nine healthy players Thursday at Utah after Babbitt, who started the last three games, left in the first quarter. Miami then gutted out a 111-110 victory after winning at Denver the previous night. The Heat are looking to sweep this three-game trip against Western Conference teams tonight.

The Heat also are without three players who are in Miami for treatment: Justise Winslow (wrist), Dion Waiters (groin) and Josh Richardson (ankle).

Though relieved the injury is not worse, Babbitt is disappointed to be sidelined for two reasons: The team already is shorthanded and Portland is about an hour from his home. Babbitt was able to see his wife, Kara, who is pregnant with the couple’s first child.

Babbitt left Thursday’s game with about four minutes remaining in the first quarter after feeling “some kind of pull” in his hip. His objective now is “to work extremely hard and be back as soon as possible. … I’m thinking days.”

Although Babbitt is day-to-day, Spoelstra said he will dress out tonight in case he is needed in a very specialized situation (inbound pass, shoot a free throw).

Babbitt, like most observers, was impressed with how his teammates overcame the adversity for their most impressive win of the season.

“There’s a lot of character on this team,” he said. “Guys are going to fight. We’re a physical team, defensive minded team, we got a lot of tough guys on this team.”

[Looking for hope for Miami Heat season, check out 2003-04 comparison]

[Heat, Sixers could be match for Dragic-Noel swap]

[Miami Heat forward James Johnson thriving because he’s not ‘in a box’]

[Want more Heat news sent directly to your Facebook feed? Make sure to like our Heat Facebook page]

Miami Heat down to nine healthy players: ‘We’re falling down like dominoes,’ says Goran Dragic

 

PORTLAND, Ore. – Just When Erik Spoelstra was starting to believe the Miami Heat were getting healthy, another one goes down.

Forward Luke Babbitt gingerly walked to the locker room during the first quarter of the Heat’s dramatic 111-110 victory in Utah Thursday – one the Jazz believe was taken from them – and never returned. He was diagnosed with a right hip-flexor strain, an injury that Spoelstra characterized as similar to the one that will keep guard Dion Waiters out of the lineup for at least two weeks. Waiters has torn groin muscle.

“Probably a little bit similar to Dion,” Spoelstra said following the game. “We’ll find out more. But it’s a hip-flexor strain. It’s not a contusion. So we’ll evaluate him.”

The Heat (7-12) started this three-game trip by leaving Waiters and forward Justise Winslow (wrist) behind to continue treatment. Then they learned Waiters’ injury was a little worse than they thought and he would be re-evaluated in two days. Josh Richardson was send home on Thursday after sitting out Wednesday’s victory in Denver when his sprained right ankle did not improve. Additionally, forward Derrick Williams was not available Thursday because of back spasms.

“We’re falling down like dominoes,” guard Goran Dragic said.

After Babbitt went down, the Heat had four players on the bench the entire game. Eight played at least 12 minutes and seven logged at least 24.

“It kind of simplifies things, nine strong,” Spoelstra said. “It was go as hard as you can and come out. And that’s what you want, that habit all year long. But when you have a deeper rotation, inevitably guys want to play their normal rotation minutes. Literally tonight guys were playing as hard as they could, raising their hand, and we had to shuffle and get guys in and out. And that’s the most we’ve ever had to do it because of fatigue, regardless of lineup. We were playing a lot of different lineups, it didn’t matter.”

With just two days remaining before they return to South Florida – the Heat go for a 3-0 trip Saturday against the Trailblazers – Babbitt was not send home. His wife, who is expecting a child, is in Portland.

“We’ll give him a chance to go home,” Spoelstra said.

Spoelstra said Williams’ back spasms started Wednesday and got worse. Williams said winning the first two games of the trip is great medicine.

“Every game it seems like one more person is going down,” he said. “We have one more game, we’re looking forward to getting that one as well. We have one on Saturday. I’ll be good by then.”

[Stat of the Week: Miami’s offense heating up]

[Wayne Ellington doing unto others as he used to do unto the Miami Heat]

[Want more Heat news sent directly to your Facebook feed? Make sure to like our Heat Facebook page]

 

Miami Heat guard Josh Richardson sent home to start treatment on ankle

Heat guard Josh Richardson will miss the rest of the road trip after being sent home to start treatment on his ankle. (AP Photo)
Heat guard Josh Richardson will miss the rest of the road trip after being sent home to start treatment on his ankle. (AP Photo)

SALT LAKE CITY – The Miami Heat facility at AmericanAirlines Arena is getting pretty crowded considering the team is on the road.

Josh Richardson returned home today to join Justise Winslow and Dion Waiters, an announcement that did not come as a surprise after coach Erik Spoelstra revealed Wednesday that Richardson was dealing with a sprained right ankle. Spoelstra said before Miami’s victory at Denver that Richardson probably would be put on a plane and sent back to Miami.

After sitting out Wednesday, Richardson also will miss tonight’s game at Utah and Saturday at Portland at the minimum.

“It’s an easy decision for us,” coach Spoesltra said tonight. “His ankle is really sore, he has a bunch of other minor stuff going on. We just want him to go back, get his body right, feel right for the next four days and we’ll re-evaluate him then. But it’s a perfect setup right now. Guys are getting great work in. He’ll  join them tomorrow.”

Spoelstra later said Richardson wrist is sore from falling on it.

Richardson injured his ankle against Boston on Monday and the ankle did not respond the last two days.

“I wasn’t sure what it was,” Richardson said Wednesday. “I thought it was something minor but I just kept feeling it. I tried to walk through (Tuesday) and do shoot around (Wednesday) morning and it was tough.

“I got treatment all day so I thought it would be better tonight but I went out for warmups and it didn’t feel right.”

Waiters is rehabbing a torn groin muscle and Winslow receiving treatment for a sprained left wrist that will force him to miss at least 11 games.

The three players are working with strength and conditioning coach Bill Foran, along with other members of the staff. Spoelstra called the facility “our three times a day, in our facility, treatment, conditioning center.”

Richardson likely will have an MRI on the ankle to determine the exact injury. He just remembers being run into by Boston’s Marcus Smart and falling and then “just kind of limping the rest of the game but I don’t know exactly how it happened.”

Richardson also missed four games as the start of the season after partially tearing the MCL in his right knee during summer workouts.

[Video: Watch Dwyane Wade’s return to Miami from a different perspective]

[Could Stephen Curry be in play for the Miami Heat next summer?]

 

Guard Goran Dragic on Heat needing his passing and scoring skills: ‘I’m comfortable with that’

 

Goran Dragic had 17 assists Monday, his Heat high and one off his career high. (AP Photo)
Guard Goran Dragic had 17 assists Monday, his Heat high and one off his career high. (AP Photo)

DENVER – Goran Dragic had double figures in assists just six times in 109 games with the Heat entering Monday, never more than 11. His high for this season was nine.

Then, with Justise Winslow, Dion Waiters and Tyler Johnson all nursing injuries, Dragic had the ball in his hands even more than usual.

The result was his Heat career high 17 assists and one off his career best. This from a player who has averaged 4.7 assists during his nine year NBA career.

Still, while the 6-foot-3 Dragic is one of the more aggressive guards in the league and plays hard every game, he is not a prototypical point guard. Having swung to shooting guard at different times during his career, when asked to label himself as either a shooting point guard or a passing shooting guard, Dragic said: “Here I feel more of a passing shooting guard. In Europe with my national team (Slovenia) it’s kind of a different style. The teams are more prepared for me probably so it’s really tough to score over there.”

Dragic averaged 8.6 assists for Slovenia in six games this summer during the EuroBasket 2017 qualifying tournament.

But Heat coach Erik Spoelstra believes Dragic’s point guard skills are underrated.

“I think he’s a great playmaker and that’s what we loved about him all those years,” Spoelstra said about the player the Heat acquired during the 2014-15 season. “There’s not a lot of guys who can get in the paint like Goran and make the right reads, either his own finish, the lob or to the weak side for open shooters.”

The Heat will need Dragic’s playmaking skills as much as his scoring skills during this three-game trip that started with Wednesday’s late game in Denver. Although Johnson, who has been Dragic’s backup, returned after his one-game absence after having oral surgery, Winslow and Waiters, both able to facilitate the offense, are not on the trip as they remained in Miami to rehab injuries.

“He was making the majority of our plays, that’s just way it had to be,” Spoelstra said about Monday’s game. “He had to be aggressive. He had to get into the paint for us. He was making the right reads.”

Dragic, who also had a season-high 27 points Monday, worked the two-man game with Hassan Whiteside leading to several ally-oop passes  and the Heat’s 7-foot center scoring 25 points. Dragic assisted on nine of Whiteside’s 10 baskets.

“I told him I can jump so if you throw it up there let’s give it a chance,” Whiteside said. “There’s not many guys that can get up there.”

When told that Dragic really doesn’t need reminding that Whiteside could jump, Whiteside called it, “just a reminder, I just put it as a footnote in his locker.”

And Dragic got the message.

“It’s much easier when Hassan is setting good screens then I can go downhill,” he said. “Usually they are stopping the ball with a big guy and they open that lob. When they didn’t open that lob the weak side will help and I had the weak side open.

“I feel like we can play like this every game, just the pace of the game.”

Dragic is averaging 6.6 assists per game, above his 5.8 average as a member of the Heat. He remains the Heat’s second leading scorer behind Whiteside with 16.3 points a game.

“Coach wants me to be aggressive,” Dragic said. “I’m at my best when I’m aggressive, when I break people and get inside the paint. For me right now I need to do both. I’m comfortable with that. I don’t have any pressure I just play.”

[Heat guard Dion Waiters out at least two weeks with torn pectineus muscle]

[Heat guard Tyler Johnson relents, wearing mouth guard: ‘I can’t miss games because I’m missing teeth’]

[Want more Heat news sent directly to your Facebook feed? Make sure to like our Heat Facebook page]

 

 

 

Heat guard Dion Waiters out at least two weeks with torn pectineus muscle

 

UDATED with quotes from Erik Spoelstra

Heat guard Dion Waiters will miss at least two weeks with a torn pectineus muscle. (AP Photo)
An MRI revealed Heat guard Dion Waiters has a torn pectineus muscle. He will miss at least two week. (AP Photo)

DENVER – An MRI on Heat guard Dion Waiter’s hip/groin area revealed he has a torn pectineus muscle, the team announced today. The injury will sideline Waiters for at least two weeks at which time he will be re-evaluated.

Waiters had been feeling discomfort before sitting out Monday’s game against Boston. He did not accompany the team on its three-game road trip, which begins tonight in Denver, remaining in Miami for treatment.

The pectineus muscle connects the pubic bone to the top of the thigh bone.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said before tonight’s game the result of the MRI was not totally unexpected by the training staff.

“We initially thought it was a strain and a strain is 10 day, two weeks,” Spoelstra said. “That’s why we left him behind. We figured we’d get him an MRI and get him around the clock treatment, that’s what he’s doing.”

Spoelstra said Waiters is doing a a lot of biking, a lot of conditioning, he’s still able to lift weights and he’s able to do some light shooting on it.

“But he has to get as much treatment as he possibly can.”

Spoelstra talked to Waiters today. Waiters had expressed his frustration over missing games on Monday.

“It’s tough,” Spoelstra said. “He wants to be out there for the guys. He’s coming off three games where he’s really starting to get into a groove and understand what’s needed from him.”

 

Waiters had been playing well of late and scored a season-high 28 points Saturday against Memphis before finally missing his first game Monday. Spoelstra said on Tuesday the injury did not get any worse by playing on it.

Waiters, 24, signed a two-year, $5.9 million free agent contract with the Heat this summer, including a player option for 2017-18. He has played in 16 games, all starts, averaging 14.2 points, 4.0 assists, 3.4 rebounds in 31.8 minutes. He is shooting 38.4 percent from the floor, 34.4 percent from three-point range.

In his last eight games, Waiters is averaging 18.8 points and shooting 41.8 percent.

[Heat guard Tyler Johnson relents, wearing mouth guard: ‘I can’t miss games because I’m missing teeth’]

[Miami Heat hoping Wayne Ellington can help bolster offense]

[Want more Heat news sent directly to your Facebook feed? Make sure to like our Heat Facebook page]

 

 

 

 

Mailbag: Is Justise Winslow’s wrist injury worse than Miami Heat originally thought?

Miami Heat's Justise Winslow drives to the net past Toronto Raptors' Kyle Lowry during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Nov. 4, 2016, in Toronto. (Jon Blacker/The Canadian Press via AP)
Miami Heat’s Justise Winslow drives to the net past Toronto Raptors’ Kyle Lowry during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Nov. 4, 2016, in Toronto. (Jon Blacker/The Canadian Press via AP)

MIAMI — It’s been a tough start to the season for the Heat.

Not just because Miami has started with a 5-12 record, but the team has also been dealing with injuries throughout the season.

Starting small forward Justise Winslow has already missed eight consecutive games with a sore left wrist and did not travel with the Heat for their current three-game road trip.

Is Winslow’s wrist injury serious? In this week’s installment of the Heat mailbag, we answer that question and more. Continue reading “Mailbag: Is Justise Winslow’s wrist injury worse than Miami Heat originally thought?”

Erik Spoelstra believes Heat on brink of being healthy despite not having Winslow, Waiters for road trip

 

Goran Dragic returned Monday after missing two games because of a strained elbow. “It’s been a roller coaster,” he said about the injuries. (AP Photo)
Heat guard Goran Dragic returned Monday after missing two games because of a strained elbow. “It’s been a roller coaster,” he said about the injuries. (AP Photo)

DENVER – The Miami Heat will be without starters Dion Waiters and Justise Winslow for their three-game trip that starts Wednesday against the Nuggets, yet coach Erik Spoelstra believes his team is as close to being fully healthy as it has all season.

“I’m only seeing positives right now,” Spoelstra said following Tuesday’s light workout in Denver. “We’re getting guys back.

“Glass half full or half empty I see it as half full. Guys are getting healthy, guys are coming back into the mix. Pretty soon now I’ll have to start making some tough decisions.”

Waiters and Winslow remained in South Florida when the Heat (5-12) departed Tuesday. Waiters sat out Monday’s home loss to Boston with what Spoelstra says is a hip flexor/groin strain. Winslow missed his eighth straight game with a sore wrist. Both players will receive treatment while their teammates are taking on Denver, Utah (Thursday) and Portland (Saturday).

“We’re not going to have much practice time, if at all, other than this,” Spoelstra said following Tuesday’s workout in Denver. “So we left behind an assistant coach, strength coach and trainer that’s going to be in our facility with real focused intense work two times a day to try to take the next aggressive step, particularly with Justise.”

Winslow, who sprained his left wrist early in the season and played through it until being shut down Nov. 15, appears close enough that Spoelstra is hopeful he will return for next Tuesday’s home game against the Knicks. He will wind up missing 11 games at the minimum.

Spoelstra was asked if it is more likely that Winslow returns sooner than Waiters.

“It might be safe to say that,” he said. “Justise will be gearing up this week to get himself ready.”

Waiters’ injury is a bit more tricky. Spoelstra said it needs rest, but at the same time Waiters needs to maintain his conditioning. Waiters had been playing through the injury, and playing well, scoring a season-high 28 points in Saturday’s home loss to Memphis before finally missing his first game Monday.

Guard Tyler Johnson missed Monday’s game after having oral surgery earlier in the day. He is expected to play against Denver.

Guard Goran Dragic returned Monday after missing two games with a strained left elbow.

Guard Wayne Ellington returned Monday after missing the start of the season with a bruised thigh.

Center Willie Reed returned Monday after missing four games because of a hyperextended knee.

Center Hassan Whiteside is dealing with a sore knee. He had an MRI Monday that was clean.

“It’s been a roller coaster,” Dragic said. “If you want to have good results you need to be healthy. I can’t wait for those guys to come back to get our rotation back to normal.”

Spoelstra went with a starting five of Dragic, Rodney McGruder, Derrick Williams, Luke Babbitt and Whiteside against Boston, a group that had not played one minute together the entire season.

Whether Spoelstra sticks to that lineup will be determined. Miami got off to a dreadful start, scoring 31 points in the first half while shooting 37.8 percent.

“It’s been different things in each game,” Spoelstra said about the rough start to the season. “Sometimes it’s been offensively, sometimes it’s been defensively. (Monday) in the course of one game we had a really tough offensive quarter in the second quarter, came out with a great offensive quarter in the third quarter, but our defense really suffered.

“Consistency is something we’re working on. We need to get better.”

[Heat offer early season-ticket renewal option with no increase in price for next three seasons]

[Udonis Haslem won’t be fined or suspended for confrontation with spectator during loss to Pistons]

[Want more Heat news sent directly to your Facebook feed? Make sure to like our Heat Facebook page]