Miami Heat guard Dion Waiters is expected to undergo season-ending surgery on his troublesome left ankle, at least two media outlets reported after the Sun Sentinel reported that a decision was imminent.
The Heat declined to comment on the recent reports of Waiters' status, with the guard having missed the past nine games with what the team had listed as a "left ankle sprain."
Waiters, 26, missed the final 13 games of last season with a sprained left ankle, then, after agreeing to a four-year, $52 million free-agent contract, reported to training camp complaining of continued discomfort in the ankle.
Waiters' contract includes a $1.1 million bonus if he appears in at least 70 of the 82 games this season. Counting the two games he missed in November for the birth of his daughter, he now has missed 11 games and is likely to miss the final 52 games of the schedule, after appearing in only 46 with the Heat last season due to a variety of injuries.
ESPN reported the surgery would come within the next two weeks, a period when the Heat largely will be on the road.
Waiters said in September he was told last season that the estimated timetable for a return from such surgery would be eight to 10 months. The Heat's regular season ends April 11. The long end of such a timetable could put Waiters in jeopardy of missing the start of next season's training camp.
Asked last Friday about the possibility of such surgery, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, "We're not even at that point right now."
Waiters has been seeking outside opinions on the ankle in Los Angeles, with, according to a Sun Sentinel source, the Heat huddling Thursday to discuss the approach going forward.
Waiters went down with his sprained left ankle in the Dec. 22 victory over the Dallas Mavericks. He had been uneven to that stage, his early-season struggles including .398 shooting from the field and .306 shooting on 3-pointers, with 70 turnovers to his 113 assists.
Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson, Wayne Ellington have all stepped up in the absence of Waiters, with the Heat with their best record, at 24-17, since Waiters joined the team in the 2016 offseason on a minimal one-year contract.
The Heat had moved Johnson into their starting lineup in place of Waiters until Johnson's recent neck issue. The team also added athletic wing Derrick Jones Jr. in the interim on a two-way contract.
While Waiters appears to be out for the season, forward Justise Winslow, who, like Waiters, is considered one of the team's better ballhandlers and playmakers, is expected to return Sunday at AmericanAirlines Arena against the Milwaukee Bucks from the strained left knee that has sidelined him the past 14 games.
In addition, forward Rodney McGruder, a starter during last season's 30-11 run over the second half of the schedule, is expected back within the next month from his preseason foot surgery.
The Heat could potentially apply for a $5.5 million disabled player exception to replace Waiters, but would have to open a roster spot, already without one to transition Jones to a standard contract for the balance of the season. Such an exception signing would be limited to the balance of the season and would have to be exercised by March 12. Monday is the deadline for applying for such an exception.
The Heat have not made Waiters available to the media since this most recent sprain.
At that time, he said, "Until I take care of it and do what I'm supposed to do with it, even if I have the littlest sprain, it's going to be like severe. At this point, you got to see what's best. But I won't write it off . . . especially if I'm going to keep going through the same thing, even with like little tweaks and things like that."
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