Leg in­jury may put Rod­ney McGruder out for the sea­son.

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By Ira Win­der­man Staff writer

KANSAS CITY — The Mi­ami Heat’s in­jury-free train­ing camp hit a sober­ing de­tour with the team con­firm­ing that po­ten­tial start­ing small for­ward Rod­ney McGruder has a stress frac­ture of his left tibia (lower leg). He is ex­pected to un­dergo surgery Tues­day.

While the team said “any timetable is pre­ma­ture,” Ya­hoo Sports re­ported that McGruder will be side­lined for three to six months, a timetable that could have him out for the sea­son.

McGruder, 26, had been com­plain­ing of leg sore­ness for the past sev­eral days, de­spite sol­dier­ing on in his reg­u­lar role.

McGruder was the lone Heat player to start all five ex­hi­bi­tions, with the Heat’s pre­sea­son con­clud­ing with a game tonight at the Sprint Cen­ter against the Philadel­phia 76ers.

Heat coach Erik Spoel­stra did not men­tion the McGruder in­jury be­fore the Heat’s de­par­ture for Kansas City, with the team next to con­vene at to­day’s shootaround.

With McGruder side­lined, the Heat likely will roll out a lineup for Wed­nes­day’s reg­u­lar-sea­son opener against the Or­lando Magic at the Amway Cen­ter that has not started dur­ing the pre­sea­son, with point guard Goran Dragic re­main­ing be­hind in South Flor­ida for the ar­rival of his fam­ily from Europe on Thurs­day night.

Spoel­stra’s op­tions as his start­ing small for­ward in­clude Josh Richard­son, who has had the strong­est pre­sea­son of any Heat

player, as well as Jus­tise Winslow and James John­son.

An­other op­tion at small for­ward, sec­ond-year wing Okaro White, is side­lined with a strained left shoul­der.

“It’s just a tweak, a mild sprain,” Spoel­stra said af­ter Thurs­day’s prac­tice at Amer­i­can-Air­lines Arena. “Thank­fully, he got ev­ery­thing checked out.”

With so many ab­sences, Spoel­stra said he ex­pects more play­ing time for cen­ter Has­san White­side and guard Dion Waiters in Fri­day’s pre­sea­son fi­nale.

McGruder holds a $1.3 mil­lion salary for the com­ing sea­son that be­comes guar­an­teed if he is on the open­ing-night ros­ter. His guar­an­tee for the com­ing sea­son cur­rently stands at $453,000.

Teams must trim to a max­i­mum of 15 play­ers by Mon­day, with most of those machi­na­tions hav­ing to be com­pleted by Satur­day be­cause of the NBA’s 48-hour waiver pe­riod.

McGruder’s 65 starts last sea­son were the fifth­high­est to­tal by a rookie in fran­chise his­tory. His 10-game streak with at least one 3-pointer last sea­son was the third long­est by a Heat rookie.

The Heat have largely gone with a 10-player pri­mary ro­ta­tion dur­ing the pre­sea­son, with McGruder the lone player locked into a spe­cific role. While Richard­son is equipped to play small for­ward, he has started the past three games at point guard with the team giv­ing Dragic time off fol­low­ing a hec­tic Septem­ber play­ing for Slove­nia at EuroBas­ket.

McGruder played 25 min­utes in Wed­nes­day’s pre­sea­son vic­tory over the Wash­ing­ton Wizards at Amer­i­canAir­lines Arena, with Spoel­stra opt­ing to give Dragic, Waiters and White­side the night off.

McGruder stands among the most pop­u­lar play­ers in the locker room for his per­se­ver­ance of go­ing un­drafted out of Kansas State, mov­ing on to play in Hun­gary and then work­ing his way into the NBA through time with the Heat’s de­vel­op­men­tal league af­fil­i­ate, the Sioux Falls Sky­force.

McGruder con­sis­tently had down­played dur­ing the pre­sea­son the pos­si­bil­ity of emerg­ing as the Heat’s open­ing-high small for­ward, will­ing to fit into any role of­fered.

“I’m out there to do what­ever needs to be done to help my team to win,” he pre­vi­ously said. “So if I come off and there’s some­thing for me, I’m go­ing to be ready to shoot. Or if it’s a pick-and-roll for me, I’m ready in that sit­u­a­tion, as well.”

Spoel­stra has said the growth in McGruder has been pro­nounced, even since last sea­son’s rookie break­through.

“We see some­body that will not be de­nied,” Spoel­stra said re­cently. “He’s proven him­self with us. As we’ve got­ten to know him, from him help­ing us win a [de­vel­op­ment-league] cham­pi­onship in Sioux Falls, but also break­ing into a ro­ta­tion and start­ing for us, so many games last year, he’s a win­ner. And he’s so com­mit­ted, ev­ery sin­gle day, con­sis­tently work­ing dili­gently to im­prove.”

Mitchell in, Drew out

The Heat signed for­ward Tony Mitchell on Thurs­day and waived guard Larry Drew II.

Mitchell has av­er­aged 21.2 points, 5.9 re­bounds and 2.8 as­sists in 78 NBA G League games, mak­ing 52 starts. In 2013, he was named de­vel­op­men­tal league Rookie of the Year. Mitchell has spent the last three sea­sons play­ing over­seas.

Drew, who was signed Sept. 5, ap­peared in one pre­sea­son game and had one re­bound, one as­sist and a steal in five min­utes on Oct. 5 at Brook­lyn.


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