The Miami Heat fined guard Dion Waiters for conduct detrimental to the team Thursday, following his explosive comments about his lack of playing time after Tuesday’s 124-86 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.
“Obviously, it’s not acceptable behavior, particularly coming off the type of disappointing loss we had the other night,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after the team’s practice in the suburbs outside of Detroit ahead of Friday night’s game against the Pistons.
Spoelstra added the matter was addressed with the whole team. The Heat would not specify the amount Waiters was fined.
Waiters on Thursday reflected on his choice of words Tuesday in which he said, “f— patience… I’ve been patient long enough” regarding his limited playing time since his return from a year-long absence while recovering from ankle surgery.
“Sometimes, it’s hard holding back the truth, how you really feel, and sometimes the best way is let it out and move forward,” Waiters said. “I made a mistake, but at the end of the day, I can live with that because when you hold something in and it’s bottled up, it can wear on you a little bit.”
While Spoelstra expressed empathy for Waiters and his situation, he stressed he has to make the best decision for the team.
“It won’t be on his terms. It’ll be on the team’s terms,” Spoelstra said. “It’s been a full calendar year, but this is not about him. This is only about the team, and it’s about winning.”
Waiters only played 11:56 in the blowout loss to the Bucks and was the 11th man for the Heat after five others had come in off the bench ahead of him. He also expressed in his Tuesday night rant that he wants to be starting.
“I was frustrated. I want to play. I’m a competitor. I want to speed this process up a little bit,” Waiters said. “Any guy would like to play being out for so long. You miss that adrenaline and everything that comes with it.”
Now it’s about moving forward for Waiters and finding better ways to vent frustration when it arises.
“We’ll all be here to help guide him and push him through this process,” Spoelstra said. “I feel my obligation for him as his head coach to even help him with some coping strategies and communication strategies when things aren’t going necessarily how he wants them to, rather than just the ranting out in the media.
“That’s not going to move the needle with me at all. I just don’t think it’s healthy for our team. It ends up just being a distraction. His teammates are here for him, as well. We value him. We need him.”
A conversation with Dwyane Wade helped Waiters deal with the issue and how he will address frustration differently in the future.
“D-Wade and I had a talk for like an hour,” Waiters said. “That’s somebody that has been in my shoes, someone who in his [prime] was one of the best players in the world, best shooting guard at that time had to take a backseat when LeBron [James] came, and he was just telling me it was hard to adjust. He was telling me to stay patient, ‘You’re so talented that I’m going to stay on your a–.’
“Having a guy like that around, who I can just go and talk to, he made it so much easier for me with the talk we had.”
Said Wade about the conversation, “I told him this won’t be the last thing you say where you look back five years from now and say, ‘Why was I thinking that way? Why did I say that?’ We all have done that.
“He wants to be on the floor. We definitely understand that, but from a team perspective, there are things you have to watch what you say. We had a long conversation about things when you grow in this game, when you talk to media, you have to be a little careful.”
Waiters was asked Thursday if he still wants to be with the Heat and he reaffirmed that he did. But he did not exactly embrace his current role.
“Me, personally. I don’t know. I can’t sit here and tell you that,” Waiters said. “I can’t predict the future. All I can do is continue to try to stay in shape and work on my game and have a clear mind and not try to think about negative stuff.”
Spoelstra’s expectations for Waiters remains the same.
“I expect him to get in great shape, in great rhythm and be prepared every single night to earn his opportunities just like everybody else. And then when he gets that opportunity, to make the most of it.”