Waiters’ left an­kle ‘still feels funny some­times’

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Game Day - By Ira Win­der­man iwin­der­[email protected]­sen­tinel.com. Fol­low him at twit­ter.com/ira­heat­beat or face­book.com/ira.win­der­man

MI­AMI — It has been a year since Dion Waiters has logged a minute in an NBA game, side­lined nine min­utes into the Dec. 22, 2017 vic­tory over the Dallas Mav­er­icks by an an­kle sprain that would lead to surgery a month later.

And yet even now, as the con­fi­dent Mi­ami Heat guard pre­pares to re­turn, cleared for con­tact work, he of­fers a sober­ing thought about his left an­kle.

“Some­times,” he said, “it still feels funny some­times.”

But not funny enough to short-cir­cuit a re­turn that has been months in the mak­ing.

“Be­cause you haven’t done some­thing in a while,” he said of the dis­com­fort. “But as far as health-wise, it’s fine. But get­ting back ac­cli­mated — jump­ing, cut­ting, guard­ing, shoot­ing, things like that — here and there, it’s good. They said that’s what I was go­ing to feel, any­way.”

In­ac­tive for Satur­day’s game against the Mil­wau­kee Bucks at Amer­i­canAir­lines Arena, Waiters said he could play at a mo­ment’s no­tice if sum­moned.

“Ab­so­lutely, ab­so­lutely,” he said. “I’m back. I feel good, man. It ain’t re­ally too much to talk about. It’s just when they think the time is right, I guess.”

Coach Erik Spoel­stra de­clined to com­ment on whether Waiters could be back be­fore the turn of the cal­en­dar, with a yearend­ing three-game home­s­tand to fol­low Sun­day’s game against the Or­lando Magic at the Amway Cen­ter.

But Waiters is mak­ing it clear he is ready, will­ing and able.

“I’m here. I’m here,” he said. “It’s not up to me. That’s coach. And they fig­ure it out and we get this thing rolling.”

As for the dis­com­fort, Waiters said he has been told it is a mat­ter of time un­til that stage passes.

“Prob­a­bly a cou­ple of weeks, prob­a­bly a cou­ple of months,” he said. “It’s how your body ad­justs to it. As long as I con­tinue to get treat­ment ev­ery day, take care of my body, and make sure I’m do­ing the lit­tle things, I feel like it’d be OK.”

For now, it has been a week of be­ing back to the grind, work­ing with team­mates as well as drilling with coaches on the side.

“It’s so good,” he said. “I feel good, so that ev­ery-day grind, get­ting your mind back, train­ing your­self men­tally, phys­i­cally for that grind. It’s been a long time.”

Maten sea­son: Re­cently re­called by the Heat, two-way for­ward Yante Maten said his time in the G League has fast tracked his devel­op­ment, av­er­ag­ing 27 points on .602 shoot­ing and 10.6 re­bounds for the Sioux Falls Sky­force.

“I’m def­i­nitely en­joy­ing my time in Sioux Falls,” said the un­drafted combo for­ward out of Georgia. “I’m be­ing used a lot. I’m try­ing to make the best out of ev­ery op­por­tu­nity and ev­ery game. I’m just ex­ited to come out and prove a point ev­ery night.”

He said it is clear there has been a goal of max­i­miz­ing his skill set.

“The coach­ing staff there is great, here and there,” he said. “Each day just try­ing to get bet­ter at shoot­ing, get bet­ter at fin­ish­ing, de­fen­sive-wise be­ing able to guard smaller guards, as well, my over­all pack­age.

“First and fore­most is my shape. I’ve lost weight and am try­ing to slim down. I’m 10 pounds lighter than when I got here, so I can get up and down the court a lot eas­ier.”

The dif­fer­ence in the G League is play­ing in front of crowds smaller than those since his AAU days.

“It doesn’t mat­ter if I’m the only one in the gym,” he said. “I’m try­ing to get bet­ter and prove a point.”

As for those who min­i­mize his G League sta­tis­tics be­cause of a lack of op­pos­ing big men, he said, “It’s not all post-ups that I’m scoring on. I’m fac­ing up, shoot­ing threes (24 of 65), free throws. I think it’s been a plethora of dif­fer­ent scoring op­tions.”

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