Heat open vs. Grizz seeking return to winning ways
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The Miami Heat, who play host to the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night in the season opener for both teams, are already off to a bad start.
Dion Waiters, who's in his fourth season with the Heat but has missed 126 of a possible 246 Miami games due to ankle/foot injuries, will miss the Memphis game due to a suspension for a violation of team rules.
Waiters played just 10 minutes in Friday's exhibition finale, and that seemed to upset him, as he was seen in a seemingly heated discussion with Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.
"There were a number of unacceptable incidents this week, culminating with his unprofessional conduct on the bench on (Friday night)," Heat president Pat Riley said. "As a consequence, I feel we had to suspend him."
Waiters, who averaged 12.0 points in 44 games last season, is the second Heat player punished during the preseason. Forward James Johnson reported to camp in poor shape and was not permitted to work with the team. He has since returned.
Despite those issues, the Grizzlies appear to be the perfect season-opening opponent for Miami, given that Memphis won just 33 games last season and has since traded several veterans, including point guard Mike Conley, center Marc Gasol and forward Chandler Parsons.
Those moves left third-year shooting guard Dillon Brooks as the most-tenured member of the Grizzlies.
But what the Grizzlies lack in experience, they at least have in excitement, especially with Ja Morant, the rookie point guard selected second overall in the 2019 NBA Draft. Morant has elite athleticism and averaged 11.3 points and 7.3 assists in four preseason games.
Brandon Clarke, Memphis' late-first-round choice, was the MVP of the Las Vegas Summer League and then had two double-doubles in his only two preseason games against NBA teams. The 6-foot-8 forward from Gonzaga was recently voted the second-biggest steal in the draft in a poll of NBA general managers.
Another Grizzlies youngster is 6-11 power forward Jaren Jackson Jr., the fourth pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. Jackson was fourth in last season's Rookie of the Year voting after averaging 13.8 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.4 blocks. But in three exhibition games this month, he fouled out twice.
"I've got to do a 180," Jackson said.
Jackson and Morant both are 20 years old, and Clarke, Brooks and backup point guard Tyus Jones are all 23.
The Heat, meanwhile, feature a veteran team with point guard Goran Dragic, 33, and newly acquired small forward Jimmy Butler, 30.
Dragic, an NBA All-Star in 2018, was limited to 36 games last season due to injuries. He might play off the bench this season.
Butler is a four-time All-Star, most recently in 2018.
Miami is not without young talent, including point guard/wing Justise Winslow, 23, rookie shooting guard Tyler Herro, 19, and center Bam Adebayo, 22.
The Heat, who finished two wins short of the playoffs last season, went 39-43 for their third losing campaign in five years. That string of failure from a franchise that advanced to four straight NBA Finals with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh motivated Riley to acquire Butler.