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Dion Waiters back with Heat after team’s 10-game suspension of him ends

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MIAMI — Dion Waiters returned to practice with the Miami Heat on Saturday, apologizing publicly for the incident on the team plane that led to his 10-game suspension.

Waiters will be with the team for its three-game trip to Brooklyn, Toronto and Boston that starts on Sunday. He has yet to play this season and has been suspended for 11 of the first 18 Heat games – costing him about $920,000, pending appeals.

“I would like to apologize to my teammates, coaches, basketball staff, the fans and the entire organization for the incident that happened on the team plane,” Waiters said in a statement distributed by the team. “I was wrong and take responsibility for what happened and am sorry for what it put everyone through.”

Waiters was not available for interviews Saturday.

“We just want to put this all behind us,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

Spoelstra said he would not divulge what went on in the team meeting when Waiters returned to the locker room Saturday.

“We understand that a lot of things happen in an NBA season,” Spoelstra said. “What we discussed in the sanctuary of our locker room, I just want to keep between us.”

Waiters, according to a person with direct knowledge of the situation who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity at the time because neither the player nor team was releasing specific details publicly, was treated for a medical emergency that started on the Heat charter flight on the night of Nov. 7 from Phoenix to Los Angeles.

The person said Waiters had ingested at least one cannabis-infused edible and had a reaction serious enough that medical attention was required when the plane landed in Los Angeles.

Waiters’ statement only acknowledged “the incident,” and did not include any details. He was not around the team during the suspension, and he spent some of his time away in Syracuse with Jim Boeheim – his college coach.

“We want him back,” Miami’s Jimmy Butler said. “Great individual. Hell of a ballplayer, as we all know.”

Waiters was also suspended for Miami’s season opener after a series of incidents in the preseason and conflicts with Spoelstra. His reaction on social media to the first suspension was also not well-received by Miami officials.

Waiters is in his fourth Heat season, and is in the third year of a four-year, $47.3 million contract that could have been worth about $52 million if he reached certain incentives.

Waiters has never made more than 46 appearances in a year since coming to Miami. He’s played in only 120 games with the Heat, missing many because of ankle injuries and surgery on his ankle and foot.

Waiters is a career 13.2-point scorer and has averaged 14 points per game while with the Heat.

“I am happy to be back with my teammates and am looking forward to getting back on the court playing basketball,” Waiters said.

Miami is 13-5 this season, the team’s best 18-game start since the 2013-14 club opened 14-4, a season that ended with a trip to the NBA Finals.

Former Celtic Guerschon Yabusele fined for not looking at flag during Chinese national anthem

Guerschon Yabusele
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Guerschon Yabusele washed out with the Celtics.

So, now the former first-rounder is playing in China – and running into trouble.

The Chinese Basketball Association fined him for not looking at the flag during the national anthem:

Though Yabusele is French, this comes amid heightened tension between the NBA and China. Most Americans will probably find it ridiculous that looking at the flag during the national anthem is required in authoritarian China.

Meanwhile, let’s ostracize anyone who dares not to stand for the Star Spangled Banner.

Portland reportedly applies for disabled player exception after Rodney Hood injury

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Rodney Hood‘s season coming to an end because of a ruptured Achilles was a real blow to Portland — he had become a critical part of their rotation. That has led to a lot of speculation about already shorthanded Portland jumping into the trade market soon looking for someone to absorb those minutes, as well as hitting the buyout market hard next February.

Portland is now looking for a little more money to spend to bring someone in, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The “disabled player exemption” allows a team over some space to go after a replacement for a player lost due to injury. This is a fairly standard process and likely will be approved. Portland can use that money on a free agent (Iman Shumpert is available again) or someone bought out by another team.

Portland is 10-16 on the season, set back in part due to injuries to the front line. The Blazers knew Jusuf Nurkic would miss most of the season, and he was vital to them, but they were counting on Zach Collins to step up and absorb those minutes. Then he needed shoulder surgery. Portland eventually turned to Carmelo Anthony to help along the frontline, and he has performed well enough for them to guarantee his contract for the season.

Portland is going to be active, both looking at free agents and on the trade market. Just don’t expect a Kevin Love deal (he may want it but his contract makes that nearly impossible).

Rumor: Dwight Howard and Chris Paul stated intent to join Mavericks until Howard backed out

Chris Paul and Dwight Howard
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The Mavericks went from winning the 2011 NBA championship to missing the playoffs within two years.

Somewhat by choice.

Of course, they wanted to remain competitive. But they were willing to accept a lower floor to maintain financial flexibility. They let key players – most notably Tyson Chandler – leave in order to chase bigger stars.

Dallas was repeatedly linked to Chris Paul and Dwight Howard, who could’ve become free agents in 2012 but opted in. They finally hit the market in 2013, but once again spurned the Mavericks. Paul re-signed with the Clippers, and Howard left the Lakers for the Rockets.

Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated:

I really think that they, Chris and Dwight, basically wink, wink said they were going to Dallas, from what I’ve heard, and that Dwight backed out.

Word on the street. But we hear a lot of stories. That’s one story I’ve heard.

This is the peril of making arrangements in underground free agency. They’re unbinding. That was especially true with Howard, who waffled through the Dwightmare with the Magic. The Mavericks might have proceeded in the smartest way, but it backfired. Dallas is only now re-emerging upward with Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis.

This also creates a fun “what if?” How good would Dallas have been? Paul remained elite, but Howard and Dirk Nowitzki were slipping. Where would the Clippers have gone with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan but without Paul? Would they still have held the credibility required to lure Kawhi Leonard and Paul George last summer? Where would Houston have turned without Howard as the star to pair with James Harden?

Serge Ibaka says he nearly goaltended Kawhi Leonard’s iconic shot: ‘I would’ve retired’

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Kawhi Leonard hit one of the biggest shots in NBA history – a buzzer-beater that bounced, bounced, bounced, bounced in during Game 7 of last year’s second-round Raptors-76ers series and propelled Toronto toward an eventual title.

Raptors forward Serge Ibaka, via Josh Lewenberg of TSN:

“I didn’t think it was going in. I was under the basket trying to go for the offensive rebound. The ball was bouncing and one time I was so close to going [for it]. Thank God I didn’t because it could have been goaltending. That would’ve been bad. I would’ve retired. If that had happened I would have retired.”

In hindsight, that would’ve been catastrophic. It would have been been bad at the time, too – but only so bad.

The Bucks, Toronto’s opponent in the Eastern Conference finals, looked better than the Raptors. The Western Conference-winning Warriors were widely viewed as invincible. Few would have thought Ibaka’s goaltend would’ve cost Toronto a championship.

Thankfully for him and the Raptors, we now know better.