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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.

Dion Waiters on suspension: ‘It’s a minor setback. It happens. It’s life.’

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Dion Waiters has yet to set foot on the court for the Miami Heat this season and is currently sitting out a 10-game suspension by the team for “conduct detrimental to the team.” He is not suspended for the gummy bears incident, but rather a series of team infractions (remember he was suspended for opening night, too, after a run-in with coach Erik Spoelstra). However, the fact this suspension came after that well-publicized disruption to the Heat is not a coincidence.

With his time off, Waiters went back to Syracuse, where he played in college, to talk to his old coach Jim Boeheim, someone Waiters sees as a father figure.

While there, Waiters talked about his suspension publicly for the first time,  speaking with Donna Ditota of Syracuse.com.

“I just wanted to come up and talk to Coach,” Waiters said. “I know that’s a person who will always be there for me if I ever need anything. It’s a chance for me to come up, be around, talk to the coaches, things like that. And that’s important….

“I’m not going to lie to you, I’m in a great place,” he said. “I can only control what I can control at the end of the day, so some things you just can’t allow to take your head the other way, some things happen for a reason. If you stay locked in, if you believe and trust in yourself, trust in the work you put in, you know, it’s a minor setback. It happens. It’s life. You learn from it. The only thing I can do is move forward. Stay focused. Stay even-keeled. Let everything else take care of itself.”

Some will want to read that as Waiters being dismissive, but in reality this is the attitude Miami wants Waiters to have — that he can move on, get past whatever issues are going on between him and the team, and come back to bolster the Miami rotation.

That said, thanks to the impressive play from rookies Kendrick Nunna Heat-style player right out of central casting — and Tyler Herro, Miami hasn’t been hurting for quality guard play. Waiters, when he returns, is going to have to earn his spot in the rotation.

Three Things to Know: Raptors show Lakers how roster depth is needed to win a ring

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Raptors show Lakers how roster depth is required to win a ring. To win an NBA title takes a couple of things coming together perfectly. First, you need stars playing at an elite level — Toronto had that last season with Kawhi Leonard dominating the playoffs, plus All-Stars such as Kyle Lowry stepping up. Secondly, it requires some role players to perform at a championship level, such as Fred VanVleet taking over the fourth quarter of a Finals closeout game.

The Lakers have championship aspirations this season. No doubt they have the stars — LeBron James is playing at an MVP level this season and Anthony Davis is beasting.

Do they have the role players? That’s the question. So far this season the Laker bench has been surprisingly good, led by Dwight Howard, but Sunday night they saw what the next level will take.

Toronto showed the Lakers what championship depth looks like. Lowry (fractured thumb) and Serge Ibaka (sprained ankle) were in street clothes Sunday night. Toronto’s remaining star Pascal Siakam did his part putting up 24 points — 18 of them when Kyle Kuzma was guarding him, he torched the young Laker (via NBA.com matchup data). But he was equal opportunity, scoring on everyone.

However, it was VanVleet’s 23 points, Chris Boucher’s 15 plus defensive blocks, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson having his best night as a Raptor that sparked Toronto’s 113-104 win. That victory snapped the Lakers’ seven-game win streak.

Boucher, in particular, was a beast in the fourth quarter.

Anthony Davis admitted after the game he’s still playing through some shoulder pain, something he has battled for a couple of weeks since he jammed it on a missed dunk attempt. He’s not going to want to sit, but this is what the much-discussed load management really is — rest the bumps and bruises everyone has during an NBA season so it doesn’t become something bigger. Davis knows his body — and he had 27 in this game — but it’s something to watch.

The Lakers’ defense, which has been impressive all season, was off against Toronto — they got burned on backdoor cuts and other sets they have stopped previously. That happens. And there are nights Hollis-Jefferson is hitting fadeaways from the post and you just tip your cap and move along.

This was just one November game and should not be weighted too heavily for or against the Lakers.

But it was also a reminder of what depth on a championship team looks like.

2) Another game, another Nikola Jokic game-winner. Nikola Jokic is clutch.

We can debate how much his conditioning (or lack thereof) has led to a slow start to the season by his standards. What matters is he has not taken the step forward Denver needs if they are going to contend this season and not exit in the second round again.

But the Nuggets are 7-2 now because the last two games Jokic has drained a game-winner. The first came against the Sixers capping a 19-point comeback.

Sunday’s came against Minnesota after the Timberwolves had come from 16 down in the fourth to force overtime.

Go ahead and talk about how Denver is not sharp this season and has a bottom-10 offense, they are still 7-2 and atop the Western Conference. They will be a tough out when Jokic is hitting shots like that.

3) Miami suspends Dion Waiters 10 games for “conduct detrimental to the team.” Miami had to do something. Dion Waiters has been a distraction and a disruption this season in a franchise that tolerates neither.

The latest incident was him taking too-many THC-infused edibles before a team flight to Los Angeles, waking up in a panic attack, and paramedics needing to be called to the plane when it landed. Maybe a teammate gave Waiters the “gummy” (and he’s no snitch), but he still took it. He was the distraction.

Miami couldn’t suspend Waiters for the THC incident — that is covered by the league’s CBA and there is a protocol — but considering Waiters had already called out team management on social media and had other clashes with the coaching staff, they had grounds to go another route.

Waiters has been suspended 10 games for “conduct detrimental to the team.”

“We are very disappointed in Dion’s actions this season that include the very scary situation on Thursday night, and grateful that the outcome wasn’t worse,” the Heat said in a statement released with the suspension announcement. “There have been a number of instances this season in which Dion has engaged in conduct detrimental to the team. … We are proud of how our players have started the season. We expect all of our players, including Dion, to conduct themselves in accordance with the highest standards, and to show professionalism and respect for their teammates, the team, the fans and the NBA community.”

Miami has been open to trading Waiters, but with all this — and two seasons, $24.8 million still on his contract — there have not been any takers. Expect Miami to keep Waiters available as we get closer to the trade deadline.

Report: Heat issue 10-game suspension to Dion Waiters, who won’t say which teammate provided gummy

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Dion Waiters reportedly overdosed on gummies and had a panic attack on a Heat team flight.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

The suspension would cost Waiters $834,483.

I wonder whether he/the players’ union will appeal it.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement already specifies protocols for marijuana. Only a third violation leads to a public announcement, and that’s only to declare a five-game suspension. A fourth violation brings a 10-game suspension.

But Waiters never had a previous five-game suspension. So, this would be, at most, his third marijuana violation – which calls for a five-game suspension.

Of course, the Heat would argue there are other factors here – Waiters getting high while on team business, Waiters not cooperating with the investigation. Miami noticeably called this “conduct detrimental to the team,” not anything about marijuana.

This incident is already embarrassing for Waiters, who got suspended for the season opener. He has become the butt of jokes, and those won’t end anytime soon. But that doesn’t mean he should get unfairly punished.

Waiters also has a $1.2 million incentive for playing more than 70 games this season. This suspension will make it impossible for him to earn that bonus with the Heat. However, it’s theoretically possible for him to get traded to teams with more games remaining. In reality, nobody is taking Waiters ($12.1 million salary this season and $12.65 million salary next season) and playing him that much, anyway.

Miami Heat’s Dion Waiters has panic attack after eating THC-infused edible

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UPDATE: Dion Waiters ingested an THC-infused edible, which led to a panic attack on Miami Heat flight to Los Angeles, according to Adrian Wojnarowski and Brian Windhorst of ESPN.

Miami Heat guard Dion Waiters experienced a panic attack on the team’s charter flight Thursday night after consuming a THC-infused edible, sources told ESPN.

Waiters received medical treatment after the plane landed in Los Angeles following the Heat’s victory over the Phoenix Suns.

As in our original story, the Miami Heat have yet to comment.

THC/marijuana is a banned substance by the NBA — even if it is legal in Colorado (where the Heat had recently been on their road trip) and California (where the plane landed). The league will look into this matter, but there is a set-out series of steps for a marijuana violation (first offense he enters into the league’s marijuana program but there is no punishment, second offense is a $25,000 fine not make public, the third offense is a five-game suspension, and the suspensions increase by five games for each subsequent offense).

Here is the original story:

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Here is what we know for sure: Dion Waiters did not suit up for the Miami Heat Friday night due to “illness.”

When Heat coach Eric Spoelstra was asked pregame about Waiter’s health he went with a very standard coach tactic of saying he would only talk about the players suiting up.

Waiters did fly back with the team to Miami on Saturday morning.

Beyond that, there are just questions, ones the Heat have yet to address.

A report surfaced during Friday night’s game, from a Miami radio personality, that Waiters had overdosed on “gummies” — we can assume these are THC-laced edibles — and had a seizure when he woke up.

He is the only person with that specific report. Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel confirmed that Waiters did have a medical emergency on the plane and first responders met the Heat charter when it landed in Los Angeles, but he did not have other details.

When Spoelstra was asked after the game about the “gummies” report he walked away and said no comment.

Heat officials told NBC Sports after the game they would not comment on Waiters, his health or status with the team.

The Heat were on a three-game road trip that included a stop in Denver (marijuana use is legal in Colorado), and then they flew to Phoenix. Waiters did not play against the Suns, with the team saying he had a stomach ache.

Waiters has yet to suit up for the Heat this season and was for the opening night game for “conduct detrimental to the team.” With the emergence of rookies Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro the Heat have not really needed Waiters on the court, and if he misses four more games he will not get a $1.2 million performance bonus that is part of his contract.

The buzz around the league is the Heat are trying to trade Waiters, but the two-years, $24.8 million still on his contract may make that difficult. There is not going to be a lot of demand for his services right now.