Miami Heat shooting guard Dion Waiters has completed his 10-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team and is ready to return for his first action of the season.
The team didn’t make him available to the media but did release a statement in which he apologized for letting his teammates down. And in turn, nearly the entire roster spoke out at Saturday’s practice, via the Miami Herald, welcoming him back.
Waiters reportedly had a panic attack that required medical attention after taking a THC-infused gummy on a flight from Phoenix to Los Angeles. While marijuana is legal in some parts of the U.S., it is not allowed in the NBA.
“I would like to apologize to my teammates, coaches, basketball staff, the fans and the entire organization for the incident that happened on the team plane,” Waiters said in a statement. “I was wrong and take responsibility for what happened and am sorry for what it put everyone through.
“I am happy to be back with my teammates and am looking forward to getting back on the court playing basketball.”
Waiters had a rocky start to the season even outside of what the team described as a “scary incident.” He has only been active in two games but did not dress in either; Waiters reportedly got in a “disagreement” with head coach Erik Spoelstra in one of those games too.
What kind of impact the 27-year-old might have when he returns is another issue.
How will Waiters’ return affect the Heat?
Waiters has been one of the Heat's top scorers during his three previous seasons, but the team has found success without him.
The Heat are 2.5 games back of the Milwaukee Bucks for the top record in the East and are off to their best start at 13-5 since LeBron James’ last season in town in 2013-14. They have seven players averaging double-digit scoring, including five perimeter players.
Rookie shooting guards Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn have particularly picked up the slack in Waiters’ absence. The duo has a combined 31.5 points per game on 40.3 percent shooting from beyond the arc, and Waiters’ return could blunt their impact.
More scoring punch will always be appreciated, but Waiters will likely be eased back into action. The Miami Herald's Barry Jackson reported that Waiters has returned to practice and will travel to the team's upcoming three-game road trip, but there's no word yet on when he’ll play or even start.
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