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Miami Heat’s Dion Waiters nears return from ankle surgery

MIAMI—Most of the added weight is gone, the return appears close and, because it is Dion Waiters, the confidence never left.

Cleared Wednesday for full-contact practice for the first time since ankle surgery in January, the sidelined Miami Heat guard opened up in an expansive interview about the intervening 11 months, including social-media ridicule about his weight gain.

Miami Heat guard Dion Waiters and Heat assistant coach Anthony Carter run drills in Boca Raton, Fla., on Sept. 25, 2018 during training camp. Waiters is close to being ready to play after having ankle surgery in January.
Miami Heat guard Dion Waiters and Heat assistant coach Anthony Carter run drills in Boca Raton, Fla., on Sept. 25, 2018 during training camp. Waiters is close to being ready to play after having ankle surgery in January.  (David Santiago / Tribune News Service)

“It sucked bad,” Waiters said of his road to Wednesday’s milestone. “Just every day, same thing over and over, you’re trying to get back, get your body right. It was gruelling man. I’m not even going to say I lied to you and said it was easy. It was terrible, man.

“I’m a tough mother-effer. It is tough, man, because I’ve never been through that before, just not being able to get up and just walk regular, just go to the bathroom, take a regular shower. You got to take (a) shower in a trash bag.”

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All the while, he was appreciating the challenge of what was to come, and has come, next.

“I mean, when you’re off your feet for six, seven months like I was, you know, it’s tough. You can’t really do nothing,” he said. “Coming back, I knew it was going to be hard like this, every day you were going to have to grind it out, just grind out.

“When you can’t run, physically work out for six, seven months, knowing me and knowing my body, I knew I was going to gain weight. And, like I said, I knew it was going to be a grind getting back, even when I was eating right. I just know how my body operates with me, I knew I was going to gain weight. But that’s the more joy you get out of it, just putting that work back in and you see, you see me now.”

That has more than his ankle feeling good.

“I’ve got some before-and-after pictures coming, too,” he said with a smile.

There was a period when Heat management had little reason to smile regarding the conditioning of both Waiters and forward James Johnson, who was working his own way back from May surgery for a sports hernia. That’s when Heat president Pat Riley took the extraordinary step of guiding Waiters and Johnson through a gruelling week of practices earlier this season, out of view of teammates and coaches.

“You don’t see very many presidents taking off the Armani and putting back their coach’s gear, whistle and all that,” Johnson said. “It was hard work. But at the same time, man, it was one of the most honourable moments that me and Dion could have asked for.”

“Honourable” is one way of putting it.

“It was long, gruelling, you had days where you just don’t feel like it but you got to do it,” Waiters said. “It makes it much more satisfying when I get back on the court.”

As for the particulars, Waiters said he was up to 239 pounds before beginning this road back. He said he is down to 222, with two more pounds to lose to get back to the team’s goal. He said his body-fat goal has been achieved.

“I’m back practising now, so I know it’s going to drop,” he said. “I feel good, though, I feel good. I’m excited.

“The ankle is good now. It’s going to have its days where you might feel a couple of aches and things like that. That’s why you get here an hour before, get your treatment in, and hopefully it’s stable and warm and it’s loose and everything else is going to take care of itself.”

As for a target return date, Waiters, 27, said that decision rests with coach Erik Spoelstra, but, “hopefully, man, sooner than later.

“I know I’m going to have to work my way back in. But once that gets going, then I’m back. Let’s just get this thing rolling.”

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