Heat power forward Markieff Morris, who has been sidelined since suffering a neck injury thanks to a hard foul from Nuggets center Nikola Jokic on November 8, will have to fight to gain back rotational time he has lost, opines writes Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
Winderman notes that Miami opted to bring in Morris as the first backup power forward behind starter P.J. Tucker in the 10 games this season when Morris was healthy, but that the team may consider small-ball lineups with versatile reserve wings Caleb Martin or Max Strus playing nominal power forward minutes for the Heat.
There’s more out of the Southeast Division:
- Hawks head coach Nate McMillan reflected on his time in the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols and away from his players, per Sarah K. Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. McMillan recently cleared protocols and has returned to coaching the team. “I’ve never had to go through anything like that,” McMillan said. “To coach during this time with COVID, some of my guys, it’s been close to a month since I’ve seen them.” The Hawks, who had 13 players in the protocols at one point in late December, are currently 17-22, the No. 12 seed in the East.
- Hawks small forward De’Andre Hunter is nearing his return to the team, according to Chris Kirschner of The Athletic (Twitter link), who reports that Hunter played in a full five-on-five team practice today. Trainers must green-light Hunter’s return to game action, which could happen as soon as tomorrow against the Heat, per head coach Nate McMillan. Hunter underwent surgery on his right wrist in mid-November. In 11 contests with Atlanta this season, he averaged 10.8 PPG on .450/.395/.400 shooting, along with 2.7 RPG and 0.6 SPG.
- Young Magic point guards Jalen Suggs and Markelle Fultz have resumed practicing with the team, according to Khobi Price of the Orlando Sentinel. Power forward Jonathan Isaac, who has been absent since tearing his ACL in August 2020, is inching towards a return of his own, though Suggs and Fultz appear closer to rejoining their Orlando teammates on the hardwood. Fultz tore his left ACL early in the 2020/21 NBA season and has been absent ever since. Suggs continues to wear a splint for the fractured thumb on his right hand. Exact return timelines for Suggs and Fultz have not been determined.