Dion Waiters trying to become latest Heat player to earn redemption
Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra expected the reaction the moment he made the phone call.
On Friday, Spoelstra contacted guard Dion Waiters to alert him he would play that night against the Los Angeles Clippers. It was the first action for Waiters this season after being suspended three times for violating team rules.
"When I called him, in typical Dion fashion he said, `I'm ready,"' Spoelstra said. "It was good to have him back out there."
Waiters finished with 14 points and four rebounds in 18 minutes. The performance could be the boost needed to restore what was once a promising season. He began the year with a suspension after arguing with Spoelstra on the bench during the final preseason game. The spat was over playing time. It led to Waiters losing a spot in the starting lineup to rookie Kendrick Nunn. Waiters was then suspended again in December after overdosing on marijuana gummies on the team's flight from Phoenix to Los Angeles. His final suspension occurred after he missed practice because of an illness but posted a picture of him on a boat the same day.
With Nunn, Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow all sidelined with injuries, Waiters finally received his opportunity. Like Kelly Olynyk and James Johnson, who fell out of the rotation earlier this season, Waiters made the most of it.
"He's been putting in time," Spoelstra said. "It's similar to what JJ did. It's similar to KO. We need everybody. Inevitably, during a long NBA season you need everybody to contribute. It's not always necessarily going to be on your terms. The last two or three weeks he's been a lot more consistent."
Waiters, who did not speak with reporters following the game, was expected to have a breakout year. He was recovered from ankle surgery two years ago and reported to training camp in top physical shape. Then the string of incidents banished him to the bench, with many thinking he would never play another game in a Heat uniform.
Yet there he was on the court Friday night hitting 3-pointers and lining up against Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard
"Dion had some good competitive possessions on Leonard," Spoelstra said. "He's fearless. He wants those moments."