Analysis: Waiters' future in Miami is very unclear
Dion Waiters leads the Miami Heat in suspensions and headlines this season.
And his future is very unclear.
Waiters won't be with the Heat for at least nine more games — his 10-game suspension for repeated conduct deemed detrimental to the team started Friday when Miami visited the Los Angeles Lakers — and what happens from there will be anyone's guess.
He'll miss out on about $835,000 in salary, raising his total missed through suspensions (he was also shunned from the season-opener) to about $920,000 this season. That doesn't include a $1.1 million roster bonus he could have gotten by playing in 70 games, a number that is now officially unattainable.
All told, this has cost him $2 million and counting.
For someone making $12.1 million this season alone, that doesn't sound so bad. The cost to his reputation hasn't been added into that figure yet.
When this suspension ends on Nov. 30, the 6-foot-4 guard will be allowed to resume workouts at the Heat facility. By then, the season will be about 25% complete. The rotation will probably be clear. There won't be minutes waiting for him. And that will lead to the next problem, which is what got him suspended for the first time last month — he won't be happy with sitting. He complained about minutes in the preseason, after he fell behind rookies like Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn in the Heat pecking order.
If he is not in the rotation or on the team, the Heat might not miss him.
The team talked about Waiters' situation Monday before their workout, then went on with the day like nothing happened.
"We had a quick meeting before practice started," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Once we got that behind us, just for clarification, we were able to focus on our team and getting better. ... Guys are working to get better at specific things."
Whatever happens in Miami will likely not be the end of Waiters' NBA career.
He just 27 years old and has shown that he has enormous talent. His confidence level is absurd. He believes he's one of the best shooters on the planet.
But whatever happened in Phoenix or Los Angeles or somewhere in between on the flight Thursday night — whatever was in the cannabis-infused gummy or gummies that he took that led to a medical emergency — might have ended up being the last straw for him in Miami.
Entering Monday, there had been 79 instances of NBA coaches looking at a foul and being so confident that the call was wrong that they were willing to spend a time-out just to get it reviewed.
And those coaches have been wrong 70% of the time.
Only 24 of those first 79 challenges — that's for fouls only — have led to a call being overturned. Toronto's Nick Nurse was 0-5 on foul challenges (and 0-6 on challenges overall) before finally getting one right in Los Angeles on Sunday, leading to a celebration where he hugged assistant coaches and a courtside fan wearing a Lakers hat.
Philadelphia's Brett Brown is 0-4 on foul challenges. Phoenix's Monty Williams and the Lakers' Frank Vogel are 0-3.
"I hate the rule," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "Nobody wants to be wrong."
The only "undefeated" coach on foul challenges is Brooklyn's Kenny Atkinson, who is 1-0. Portland's Terry Stotts is 4-2, making him the leader in foul-challenge wins.
And San Antonio, Cleveland, Memphis and Oklahoma City hadn't challenged a foul call yet, entering Monday.
Coaches are doing better on out-of-bounds challenges, going 6-5 so far. Goaltending and basket interference challenges are rare, with teams going only 2-3 on those in the early going.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
It is very early, though numbers are suggesting that defenses might have closed the gap a little bit on offenses this season.
Through the first 11% of the season, scoring is down roughly a point per game from last season's level — 111.2 per game then, 110.3 now. And field-goal shooting is down a bit as well, from 46.1% to 45.1% this season.
But the love affair with the 3-pointer continues: The league is on record pace for 3's made for an eighth consecutive season. On the down side, teams are averaging 16 turnovers per game — which would be the most since 1993-94.
THE WEEK AHEAD
A highlight for each of the next seven days:
Brooklyn at Utah, Tuesday: A Kyrie Irving vs. Donovan Mitchell matchup? Yes, please.
Philadelphia at Orlando, Wednesday: Markelle Fultz gets to play against his old team.
Dallas at New York, Thursday: Dallas' Kristaps Porzingis makes his return to New York.
Indiana at Houston, Friday: James Harden has shot 37% in his last six games vs. Pacers.
Atlanta at L.A. Clippers, Saturday: Trae Young gets to challenge the Clippers' defense.
Boston at Sacramento, Sunday: A very rare 12:30 p.m. local start time in Sacramento.
Charlotte at Toronto, Monday: Raptors start a stretch with seven of nine games at home.
Tim Reynolds is a national basketball writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him at http://twitter.com/ByTimReynolds
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