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.