Heat’s Dion Waiters suspended for opener over ‘conduct detrimental to the team’

Entering the third year of a four-year, $52 million contract, Waiters has been unhappy about being used off the bench this preseason.

Heat guard Dion Waiters has been suspended for the regular season opener Wednesday for “conduct detrimental to the team,” the Heat announced in a statement Saturday night.

Miami opens the 2019-20 season Wednesday at home against the Grizzlies.

“There were a number of unacceptable incidents this week, culminating with his unprofessional conduct on the bench (Friday) night,” Heat president Pat Riley said in a statement issued by the team (via the Miami Herald). “As a consequence, I feel we had to suspend him.”

The one-game suspension will cost Waiters $83,448, according to ESPN.com.

Riley spoke in April about “tightening the screws” on the Heat’s “culture,” according to the Herald, which added, “(i)t looks like that plan is already being put into action.”

Waiters already is the second player to face publicly announced punishment from the Heat this preseason. James Johnson wasn’t allowed to be at training camp because his conditioning wasn’t up to the team’s standards. He returned to practice late in the preseason.

“It’s across the board, the whole organization, basketball operations and everything,” Riley said earlier this month. “It’s just taking things for granted, letting things slide, being a little bit late, not being on time. I told you what I hated, I hate complaining, gossiping and guys that don’t work hard. I have a hard time with players that don’t tuck their shirts in. It’s very unprofessional. It’s all of these things. Maybe I’m a little bit too picky. But I just believe in uber-professionalism. That’s all.”

Waiters, 27, is due to make $12.1 million in the third year of a four-year, $52 million contract he signed ahead of the 2017-18 season

He will be able to return to the team Thursday, according the Heat’s announcement.

If Waiters does return that day, his next game would be on the road Saturday against the Bucks.

However, Waiters has been unhappy about being used in a reserve role in four preseason games, so there’s no guarantee he’ll return or he’ll be happy if he does given that he wants to be a starter and coach Dion Waiters has remained noncommittal about that.

“We have quality guys who can start, quality guys who can give you a boost off the bench,” Spoelstra said after the Heat’s preseason win against the Hornets on Oct. 9. “The majority of his career, he’s been off the bench.  The main thing now is to get Dion progressing, get him in world class shape. He’s committed to that process. He’s not there yet. That’s encouraging what we saw.”

He played only 10 minutes in Friday’s preseason finale against the Rockets, while nine players logged more minutes than him. Moreover, as Riley mentioned in his statement, the team was unhappy about his conduct on the bench during that game.

In four preseason games, Waiters averaged eight points (44.8 percent shooting), 2.5 assists and one rebound in 14.3 minutes. He missed one preseason game because he was away from the team to deal with a family issue.

Entering his fourth season with the Heat, Waiters has missed more than half of the regular-season games in that time, 126 of a possible 246, because of injuries, most notably an ankle injury that required surgery in January 2018.