Dion Waiters spoke about his issues for the first time in months Sunday, accepting responsibility for the matters that led him to being suspended by the Miami Heat on three separate occasions already this season.
Waiters didn’t specifically address any incidents, including his decision to take cannabis-infused gummies on the team plane and needing emergency medical attention when that flight landed in Los Angeles. That led to a 10-game suspension in November; his other banishments were for the season opener after complaining about playing time, then a two-week one in December for continued violations of team policy.
“I’m a grown man. I don’t point fingers. I’m could easily say this and that, but at the end of the day, it’s me,” Waiters said. “I made immature decisions. So, you know, I take full responsibility.”
Waiters finally made his season debut for Miami on Friday, scoring 14 points in a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. Miami plays again Monday against Orlando and Tuesday against Boston, and with several players -- including perimeter players Jimmy Butler, Goran Dragic and Kendrick Nunn all dealing with injuries -- there still could be a spot for Waiters in Miami’s rotation.
“There’s so many moving parts right now,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “You just want everybody to put in the time behind the scenes and get into a healthy head space where you can contribute when your number is called and he did that. He still has a ways to go with his conditioning, particularly game conditioning. That’s to be expected. But he’s a gamer.”
Waiters’ suspensions have cost him about $1.4 million in salary this season. That doesn’t include a $1.1 million bonus that he could have earned by appearing in 70 games, a level that has been mathematically out of reach for months already.
“I’m happy for him. I’m very happy for him,” Heat teammate Jimmy Butler said. “He’s working. He was ready to go out there and hoop and that’s all we were saying, just say ready. Now it’s all about trying to stack up however many good days you can.”
Waiters said he relied on family to get him through the suspensions and not playing, saying he would not let going through it all break him.
“I’m not going to lie to you, man. My kids. My kids, my family, my support system is so strong,” Waiters said. “I’ve got a lot of good people in my life. You find that out when you go through them times. This is the first time I’ve been through something like this in my life. … I don’t feel like I lost anything, besides my money.”
Waiters had a simple answer on whether he expects to keep playing.
“Hopefully,” he said.
Justise Winslow (back) remains out for Miami, while Bam Adebayo (ankle) was listed as probable. Butler is questionable with a sprained ankle, Dragic is questionable with a sore calf and Nunn is questionable with a sore Achilles.
Butler said he would wait until he wakes up Monday before knowing if he can play against the Magic or not. He did, however, say that he wants to play, mindful that Miami is 0-1 against Orlando this season and has lost five of its last six against the Sunshine State rival.
“I would think that they think they’re the best team in the state,” Butler said. “We believe otherwise. We know otherwise. But we’ve got to go out and prove it.”