Heat without Hassan Whiteside, Wayne Ellington to open six-game trip

Ira Winderman, Sun Sentinel on

Published in Basketball

PHOENIX -- The Miami Heat's flight for their six-game western swing took off light on vital cargo Thursday, with both Hassan Whiteside and Wayne Ellington remaining behind due to personal reasons.

The team did not delineate the reason for Ellington's absence, but said Whiteside remained behind as he awaits the birth of his first child.

Guard Dion Waiters, who is recovering from January ankle surgery, also remained behind, yet to travel with the team this season.

Guard Goran Dragic, who has missed the past eight games due to a swollen right knee that was drained two weeks ago, did take flight for the trip that opens Friday against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena.

The Heat have yet to recall either of their players on two-way contracts, undrafted forwards Yante Maten and Duncan Robinson, who are with the G League Sioux Falls Skyforce.

The current available roster, with Dragic still working toward a return, is down to Bam Adebayo and Kelly Olynyk at center; James Johnson, Justise Winslow, Rodney McGruder, Udonis Haslem and Derrick Jones Jr. at forward; and Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson and Dwyane Wade at guard.

Whiteside and Ellington are expected to join the team on the trip, which continues with games in Los Angeles at Staples Center on Saturday night against the Clippers and then Monday against LeBron James and the Lakers, before concluding with games against the Utah Jazz, Memphis Grizzlies and New Orleans Pelicans.

It is the second absence of the season for Whiteside, who missed the Nov. 5 road victory over the Detroit Pistons with a sore right knee. Coach Erik Spoelstra started Adebayo that night, the second-year center's lone start to this point.

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It also is the second absence for Ellington, who missed the season's first seven games after sustaining an ankle injury during training camp. The Heat went 3-4 during that stretch.

Tyler Johnson and Jones, who had been sidelined, both were back in uniform for Tuesday's loss to the Orlando Magic. Johnson, who had missed the previous six games with a strained right hamstring, played 13 minutes in the loss, with four points on 2-of-3 shooting. Jones, who had missed two games with a hamstring strain, did not play against Orlando.

The Suns also are expected to be shorthanded Friday, with Devin Booker (hamstring) and T.J. Warren (ankle) held out of Thursday's game against the Portland Trail Blazers, not expected to return to the court until this weekend.

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