If there is a single act that can drive Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra to distraction it is one of his players being reduced to spectator.
For Dion Waiters, it is guilty as charged when it comes to his court time alongside Dwyane Wade.
Reduced to spectator for more than a year due to an ankle issue, Waiters’ return has left him, at least at moments, as a perhaps too-interested bystander.
“He’s such a great basketball player in making plays, and he’s so smart,” Waiters said of Wade. “So when I’m out there and he’s got the ball and he’s doing his thing, I’m watching.
“I’d be taking notes in my head, of the things that he’s doing on the floor, right then and there — the quick decision making, baiting the defense. I’ll just be looking at him.”
The Heat’s offense is predicated on constant movement. Drive. Kick. Cut. Screen. Post. Re-post. But when aspects of your game have been compared to an impending Hall of Famer, taking notes sometimes can take precedence.
“Sometimes I get caught up looking at him, trying to dissect everything he’s doing right there in that one play,” said Waiters, at 27 nearly 10 years younger than Wade. “So I’ll just be out there learning and I think that’s a great tool for me.
“I already talk to him so much, like we pick each other’s brains and things like that. But when I’m out there, I’m just watching him. I’m watching him on the attack. Like I said, I’m just dissecting the game when I’m out there.”
As for Waiters’ surgically repaired left ankle as he approaches the one-year anniversary of his Jan. 22, 2018 procedure, the mending process remains ongoing, now a week into his on-court return.
“Sometimes it takes a while to get warm and things like that, loosen up,” he said. “And it aches sometimes. It’s getting better, though. So at the end of the day, I think I just keep doing what I’m doing, just keep getting work done, a lot of work done to it, and throughout the course, I think it’ll get better.
“It’s manageable. I can deal with it. And I’m doing it right now. It’s good. Just make sure you keep taking care of it, ice it, treat it and it’ll be fine.”
Kevin McHale, the Hall of Fame forward who went on to front office and coaching careers, offered his thoughts on the Heat in advance of working as TNT’s analyst for Thursday night’s Heat game against the Boston Celtics at AmericanAirlines Arena.
“Miami is an interesting spot,” McHale said. “They need [Goran] Dragic back and healthy. They need everybody for their team healthy. But Erik Spoelstra is a very good coach and he is going to have a lot of options with that team once everybody is healthy.
“I think he’s going to be able to get them playing well on a nightly basis, because if one guy is not bringing it, you’re not beholden to a guy having to play 37 minutes. You play the hot guys. It’ll be interesting. I’m looking forward to see if they’ll be able to hang around, be able to get over the hump. But they haven’t been healthy. It’s very hard to say who they are.”
McHale said he could envision the Heat as a playoff opponent better avoided in the first round.
“I definitely think they have a ceiling,” he said, “but who’s going to really want to play them if they’re playing well? They have a lot of depth. And if Dragic is playing well, Waiters gets hot, [Hassan] Whiteside doesn’t do it all the time, but Whiteside could have a series where he averages 15 and 15.”
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