Miami Heat suspend Dion Waiters before zero tolerance season

“I let the culture slip.”

With those words — spoken after last season by Miami Heat president Pat Riley — you knew the next season would be different. Riley felt burned after he gave much-criticized lucrative long-term contracts to non-stars in 2016 and 2017 and then those players returned the reward by slacking on their conditioning.

And before it even begins, this season is different.

First, Riley banished James Johnson from training camp not for failing the conditioning test — he passed — but for failing to meet Riley’s special weight requirement.

Now, Dion Waiters, who had weight issues last season but got himself in better shape this offseason, has been told he isn’t “in Heat shape” by Erik Spoelstra (we posted that video), and has been steered toward a bench role as Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro have gotten preseason starts.

And he’s been openly unhappy about it.

So now he’s been suspended for one game.

Notice the language.

“Number of unacceptable incidents.”

Remember Waiters telling Ira Winderman that he wasn’t cool with coming off the bench, even after he flourished in that role against Charlotte in the third preseason game?

Remember this from Spoelstra about what he wants from Waiters, which Waiters then somewhat contradicted right after?

Here was Waiters:

There was some speculation that Waiters was away from the team for three days this week after Charlotte game because of a disciplinary action, though my sources did confirm an actual personal issue unrelated to his unhappiness.

Even so, it doesn’t seem to be stopping.

Here are some tweets that tell the story:


Instagram always remembers, and this doesn’t appear that it is going away anytime soon. Unless Waiters ends up elsewhere:

We know how this goes.

Just ask Hassan Whiteside. In Portland.

Herro and the Miami Heat Heels

Tyler Herro’s meteoric rise has captivated the Heat fans and the national media. His elite shotmaking ability, a valuable skillset put on display throughout summer league and NBA preseason has the rest of the league taking notice.

However, on October 17th vs the Orlando Magic it was his toughness and his WWE heel-like trash talk that went viral on social media platforms.



It’s a toughness his teammates love and embrace.

Jimmy Butler once again expressed how much he “loves that kid” and Justise Winslow was the first teammate to console Herro, who didn’t need much consoling, after the scuffle. Winslow did it with huge grin on his face, akin to an older brother watching his little brother win his first fight. And Winslow he wasn’t the only one. There was a a noticeable slight grins on the faces of nearly all of Herro’s teammates and coaches.

This shouldn’t be a shock to anyone who’s familiar with the Miami Heat culture. They like tough and serious players. It’s why after drafting the silly Michael Beasley in 2008 they’ve drafted players who are nothing like Beasley such as Winslow, Josh Richardson, Bam Adebayo and now Herro and KZ Okpala.

Butler is known for his tough love, and verbally challenging his teammates. The difference with Herro and why they’ve bonded so much in a short time is because Herro “talks back.”

Herro’s trash talking is nothing new, this is the same Tyler Herro who was walking into high school gyms getting booed by opposing fans, silencing them with his play on the court, all the while smirking at opponents. Often, they tried to rattle him first, but he didn’t back down.

And it’s not just Herro. Butler in an interview with Heat broadcaster Eric Reid said “Justise Winslow doesn’t back down from anyone.” If you recall, Winslow who’s usually stoic was the opposite of that in the playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers. A technical foul for stepping on Joel Embiid’s mask, getting into scuffles, and screaming expletives at Ben Simmons thought the series.

There probably hasn’t been a team with this number of players who exhibit the Miami Heat DNA since the fights between the Heat and New York Knicks in the late 1990s. Udonis Halem has never been bashful, Dion Waiters can talk up a storm, Olynyk has been in skirmishes, and James Johnson almost used everything he learned from his MMA background on Serge Ibaka last year before cooler heads prevailed.

The “Big Three” of LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade were hated but they wanted to be loved. The heel role didn’t suit them or their personalities. To the contrary, this heat team is tailor maid to be villains. Jimmy Butler said he wants this Heat team to be “hated”, with their physicality and their bluntness trash-talking, they’re well on their way.

NBA GMs love Spoelstra, like Miami Heat a little

The NBA’s general managers have spoken.

The annual polling of teams’ primary decision-makers was released today on and, as usual, there are some surprises. What comes across most is how balanced the league is this season, compared to recent seasons.

We’ll get to thoughts on other teams and players in a minute but, first, how do they see the Heat.

Well, first, no one sees them winning the title this season. Neither, naturally, do we. We do — or at least I do — see them contending for the third spot in the conference behind Milwaukee and Philadelphia. No GM does, however. The Heat received no third place votes, while 18 percent of the GMs have them finishing fourth. The consensus? Seventh, also behind Boston, Brooklyn, Toronto and Indiana.

So what about players?

The Heat did not get votes for MVP, player to start a franchise with, or player who forces the most adjustments. Nor did the Heat get consideration for any particular position, in terms of being the best in the league (small forward, where Jimmy Butler, is kind of loaded).

Bam Adebayo did receive votes in the “breakout season” category (Sacramento’s DeAaron Fox was first). And while Tyler Herro did not register in the Rookie of the Year thinking (tough season to do that), he did receive 7% of the vote for “biggest steal” at his draft position, which was 13th. And Derrick Jones Jr. got 7% of the vote for most athletic player.

Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Anthony Davis switched teams this offseason, so all beat out Butler in the biggest offseason acquisition category. Butler did receive a vote for best perimeter defender (Leonard and George outpaced the field). The Heat were not among the eight teams receiving votes for “most improved team.”

But this is where it gets interesting.

Remember when ESPN blowhard Dan Dakich said Erik Spoelstra was just another coach? While sitting in the same booth as our buddy Jorge Sedano?


Jorge has final say on this:

HEAT shuffle prospects with eyes on Sioux Falls Skyforce

Today the Heat began the process of finalizing the prospects it intends to funnel to their G League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce.

Within hours of each other, the Heat announced that they have waived guards Jeremiah Martin and Mychal Mulder and signed guards Skyler Flatten and Bubu Palo.

Martin’s tenure in Miami started in July, while Mulder was signed a month ago. Neither prospect flashed enough to warrant consideration for two-way contracts.

Bubu Palo is a longstanding member of the Skyforce, playing the last five seasons in Sious Falls.

Flatten had a productive career at South Dakota State, starting every game of his senior season last year.

The shuffling of prospects throughout preseason to get looks at different players is not foreign operating procedure for the Heat in recent seasons.

The organization is widely regarded as one of the teams who has utilized the G League in many of the most forward thinking, innovative ways since 2006.



Do the Miami Heat have a Dion Waiters issue?

Dion Waiters had a great game on October 9th, scoring 19 in a preseason rout of the Charlotte Hornets.

The problem came after it.

It was reported by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that Waiters is not happy with anything short of a starting role this season. To be clear, Waiters made no public demands. Waiters, like Hassan Whiteside (traded to the Portland Trailblazers in the offseason) aren’t by any accounts bad guys. But both, perhaps Whiteside more than Waiters, have reputations for putting individual success first. And that maybe they aren’t your prototypical Heat guys.

Waiters can help the Heat if he’s in shape, which he appears to be. His ballhandling, shooting and swagger are useful attributes. But only if he buys in. So will he start? And how will he react if he doesn’t?

The Heat don’t typically throw rookies in the fire right away, but there Tyler Herro was, opening Monday’s win against Atlanta as Waiters was inactive, and scoring the Heat’s first 14 points. Herro is making a compelling a case, with hsi shotmaking and playmaking, to start alongside Justise Winslow and Jimmy Butler in the backcourt.

It should be noted that Waiters did what he was supposed to do this summer: he got in better condition. Is he in “Miami Heat shape”? Spoelstra said at training camp Waiters wasn’t quite yet, an assessment Waiters didn’t seem to appreciate. But, as every knows by now, Miami Heat shape requires more effort to tone and condition your body than is necessary for the average NBA team. And even that doesn’t guarantee anything. You still need to fit with your teammates on the floor. The Heat have made a point of Herro’s gym rat nature. Is Waiters meeting the same standard? It’s not enough for a veteran of several seasons to just shave off a few extra pounds.

A starting spot should be determined by your level of play, chemistry with your teammates and how all of that correlates to overall team success on the court. Waiters does have chemistry with Goran Dragic; we saw that in the 2016-17 run. So it might be prudent to keep 7-11 duo intact. Waiters improved his three point shooting last year, especially in catch and shoot situations last year with Winslow and Josh Richardson handling most of the ball handling situations. However, now it’s a different team and it’s also Jimmy Butler’s team, so he’ll need to continue to build off of what he did last year and what he did Wednesday night vs the Hornets.

Yes, Waiters worked more this offseason.

But even with that, and the improvements he’s made, Spoelstra is famous for these five words: It doesn’t guarantee you anything.

Looks like the Miami Heat have a lineup

We sort of called this one.

No, it wasn’t expected quite this early, but Tyler Herro joined two other newcomers — Jimmy Butler and Meyers Leonard — in Miami’s starting lineup Monday against Atlanta.

And you shouldn’t expect it to change, after Herro scored 23 in 25 minutes in another rout, this one 120-87.

The lineup gives Miami the spacing it requires around Butler and Justise Winslow. It also allows Erik Spoelstra to reunite Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters (old 7-11 from the 2016-17 run) as what would now be the best backcourt pairing in the league, provided that Waiters gets back on the floor in the right frame of mind. Waiters is back after having gone away for “personal reasons,” coincidentally after he said he didn’t want to come off the bench. (He wasn’t active Monday).

When Kelly Olynyk returns from a knee injury, he can slide in as the versatile backup big, with Derrick Jones Jr. rotating between forward spots, and James Johnson (once in condition), Kendrick Nunn (who looked great again Monday) and Duncan Robinson (who continues to struggle with his shot) getting spot duty.

Spoelstra was noncommittal about whether he would keep the lineup together, but it would be unusual for the Heat to elevate Herro so quickly, watch him play so brilliantly and then slide him back to third team.

Not happening.

Not with support like this from Butler.

So get used to it — fans, media and, of course, Dion.

Check out Greg Sylvander’s column on Tyler Herro, the big bucket of hope.

The numbers-crunchers (kinda) like the Miami Heat

While 538 is best known for its political predictions, the statistical website runs plenty of models on sports too.

And it has run one on the Miami Heat and other NBA teams.

Here’s the entire article, which we will explore in more detail — zeroing in on specific Heat players — in future posts here.

But, for now, here’s a look at how they see the team as a whole, based on this calculus…

How this works: These forecasts are based on 50,000 simulations of the rest of the season. Our player-based RAPTOR forecast doesn’t account for wins and losses; it is based entirely on our NBA player projections, which estimate each player’s future performance based on the trajectory of similar NBA players. These are combined with up-to-date depth charts — tracking injuries, trades and other player transactions — to generate talent estimates for each team. A team’s full-strength rating assumes all of its key players are in the lineup.


— They have the Heat as the 15th best team in the league, with a projected record of 42-40. That’s actually below the over-under at most Las Vegas sportsbooks.

— That would have them 6th in the East, behind the Bucks, 76ers, Celtics, Raptors and Pacers. The Nets and Magic are next. If Kevin Durant returns during the season, expect the odds to change.

— They have the Heat with a 78 percent chance of making the playoffs. In the West, that would be significantly lower.

— Chance of making the NBA Finals? That’s at 3 percent.

— Championship chance? Less than 1 percent.

On that last one, they obviously haven’t watched Tyler Herro enough.

Shifting heights… and being high on Heat roster

The NBA recently got real.

The league mandated that all teams must annually update their players height measurements without shoes and the measurements for the Heat players are finally in.

Down from “6-7” with shoes, Justise Winslow could be the potential opening night starting guard for the Heat with official height measurements of “6-6”. Rookie Tyler Herro who was drafted 13th overall from Kentucky will officially listed at 6-5 a little shorter than his combine height of 6-6, second round pick from Stanford KZ Okpala official numbers measure him at 6-8 instead of 6-9. Heat guards Dion Waiters and Goran Dragic, Winslow’s most likely potential backcourt mates, both were listed at “6-3.

The frontcourt?

The Heat’s big trade acquisition, new face of the franchise and likely starting small forward Jimmy Butler, who is “6’8” in shoes, will officially be listed an inch shorter at “6-7,” likewise for James Johnson, who is away from the team until he meets his conditioning requirements. And the same  for Duncan Robinson who also will now be officially listed an inch shorter at “6-7.” The Heat will have one 7 footer on the roster instead of two, as Meyers Leonard,  who will remain a seven footer is down by an inch from 7-1 to 7-0 and Kelly Olynyk from 7-0 to 6-11. Next in line to be the Heat franchise center, Bam Adebayo, is measured at 6-9, down from 6-10.

So basically every player except for Dragic, Devon Reed and Udonis Haslem shrunk an inch without shoes. Does this change anything? No, it doesn’t. However, while we’re discussing players heights, what this does say is that the Heat will be a lot bigger, especially in the wing positions than previous seasons. In the second quarter of the scrimmage on Sunday, with Olynyk injured, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra started a lineup of Winslow (6-6), Butler (6-7), Robinson (6-7) Adebayo (6-9) and Leonard (7-0). That is a huge line up for a heat team that often deployed 6-3 guards such as Dragic, Waiters, and Tyler Johnson together in recent years.

Another big lineup could feature Winslow, Butler and Okpala but we should expect the second-round rookie to play more in versatile lineups at the four, similar to James Johnson the last two seasons. Spoelstra could also go smaller by sliding Winslow and Butler down to the 3 and 4, with Dragic and Waiters at the 1 and 2, although I don’t think it would be wise. So many possibilities. What about Herro in the backcourt with Winslow and Butler along with Olynyk, Leonard or Jones next to Adebayo?

Needless to say, this roster is one of the more versatile and flexible groups Spoelstra has had recently. The versatility is not just measured with a ruler, but with skillsets.

Butler and the Bucket: the Love Affair continues

We first saw this Butler affair flourish in Chicago.

That’s where Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro started posting Instagram love letters to each other, shooting and sneering together in workouts.

Now, though, their affection is in full bloom.

Jimmy Butler clearly likes guys who get it. Who not only can play, but play really really hard. It’s already apparent to him that the rookie does that.

And Tuesday, in the Miami Heat’s preseason opening win against the San Antonio Spurs, Heat fans saw that up close. Herro scored 18 in his preseason debut, every which way. But he also dished, blocked, scrambled and sprinted.

And Butler loved it.

Well, he didn’t love everything.

He doesn’t love Herro’s hair.

Here’s a clip from after the game.

You’ll probably figure out when the rookie walked by him, and then walked out.

Get your Jimmy Canastas t-shirt here!

Herro Shines in Miami Heat Win Over Spurs

The night started as Jimmy Butler’s show, but it ended as Tyler Herro’s coming out party.

Herro shined in his debut, scoring a team high 18 pts while leading the team in its 89 to 107 victory over the Spurs.  Herro was a game high +29 and showed every facet of his game.

“It’s great for young guys to come in and have that confidence to be aggressive and to feel comfortable,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I’m sure he had a lot of nerves coming into tonight, not knowing what to expect.”

Spoelstra’s juge experimental starting lineup of Justise Winslow, Jimmy Butler, Duncan Robinson, Meyers Leonard and Bam Adebayo got off to a rough start.  The defense looked porous and the offense anemic, but after a few trips up and down the floor they seemed to settle in.  Butler, especially, looked like he preferred to defer and didn’t score his first points until the second quarter – missing his first three shots mostly under duress or late in the shot clock.

Business really picked up when the bench unit entered the game late in the first quarter, led by Goran Dragic and the much-heralded Herro.  Herro’s full offensive arsenal was on display in the first half. Step back three pointers, dribble drive push shots in the lane and turnaround midrange jumpers.  By the end of the first half, Herro had the American Airlines Arena crowd breathlessly anticipating every possession.

Adebayo and Leonard proved more than capable in the rebounding department, temporarily putting to rest a large concern this offseason with the departure of Hassan Whiteside.  “We have to (rebound), not just necessarily Meyers. We have to be a group rebounding team. We talk about being one of the better defensive teams in the league, but we have to finish possessions,” said Spoelstra. The two combined for 19 rebounds while playing only 23 and 24 minutes. Adebayo also chipped in with 14 pts.

Winslow proved capable of handling the offense at times in an uneven performance, including a disappointing 0-4 from three point range after making the shot a priority this summer.  After shooting almost 38% last season, this may prove to be much ado about nothing, but it’s a play that he needs to make if he wants to continue to lead the starting unit.  Winslow finished with 11 pts, 3 assists and 4 turnovers.

Chris Silva was another bright spot for a Heat team in search of size off the bench. “He made us watch him. He’s had those moments in training camp too,” said Spoelstra.  “He had a great block tonight, but he probably had 5 blocks better than that in training camp.”

Silva finished with 16 points and 9 rebounds in only 14 minutes.