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MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) — The waiting game is beginning for the Miami Heat and the season is still over a month away.
Heat guard Dion Waiters will begin this season as he finished last season — unable to play.
Waiters has not recovered sufficiently enough from left ankle surgery to be ready for the start of training camp next week, the team announced Tuesday. Heat President Pat Riley said it’s unlikely that Waiters will be ready for the start of the regular season as well.
The announcement wasn’t a total surprise because Waiters was told when he had the procedure in mid-January that he could be sidelined for up to 10 months.
“Dion will not be returning to the court until the Heat medical team and training staff deem him healed, rehabbed and physically conditioned for all basketball activities,” Riley said.
Heat point guard Goran Dragic was taken aback by the news.
“This is kind of out of the blue for me,” Dragic said. “At the end of the day, he knows what is best for him. I’m hoping he’s going to be ready when we need him.”
Waiters is due to make about $11.5 million this season, the second year of a four-year deal. He has incentives based on games played, and cashing in on those already seems to be in some doubt as his recovery and rehabilitation program — which has allowed him to take part in some shooting drills in recent weeks — continues.
While his loss will be felt, shooting guard is a position of serious depth for Miami even with Waiters sidelined.
The Heat are loaded with wings, a list that includes Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson, Wayne Ellington, Rodney McGruder — and now, Dwyane Wade, who announced earlier this week that he’s coming back for his 16th and final NBA season. Wade officially signed his one-year, $2.4 million contract Tuesday.
“We are very delighted that Dwyane decided to return,” Riley said. “I believe that Dwyane can play a big part in us winning. That’s what he is all about. I’m glad he’s back.”
The issue with Waiters’ left ankle has gone on for the last 18 months.
Waiters was driving into the lane early in a game against Minnesota on March 17, 2017, when he turned the ankle. He missed the final 13 games of that season, one in which the Heat — who started 11-30, then went 30-11 in their final 41 games — lost a tiebreaker for the last Eastern Conference playoff spot.
He labored through the start of last season, and when he twisted the ankle again on Dec. 22, he expected to be sidelined for a few games at the most.
Waiters hasn’t played in a game since.
In 30 games last season, Waiters averaged 14.3 points. But he shot only 31 percent from 3-point range, 9 percent worse than he did in 2016-17.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)