While the return of Victor Oladipo and Markieff Morris has been one of the most talked-about topics for Miami Heat fans and analysts all season, the team itself continues to be very tight-lipped when it comes to providing updates on these two players’ timetable for rejoining the lineup.
Oladipo, after undergoing surgery on his right quadriceps in May, has not played in a single game thus far this season and Morris has been out since taking a blindside hit from Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic on November 8.
With the return of both Oladipo, 29, and Morris, 32, just around the corner, there’s a concern about how exactly they will fit back into the lineup. The Heat are on a hot streak, having won back-to-back games against the New York Knicks and the San Antonio Spurs upon their return from the All-Star Break, and Miami (40-21) remains in first place atop the Eastern Conference.
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The old saying, “If ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” instantly comes to mind, but if a healthy Oladipo and Morris are ready to go, Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra must reinsert the two-time All-Star and veteran forward back in the lineup.
While some would feel hesitant about Morris and Oladipo’s return, Heat star Jimmy Butler is ready to welcome them back open arms. “I just love to see everybody try to get healthy and do what they love to do, what they’ve been doing their entire life,” Butler said, per Miami Herald‘s Anthony Chiang.
“The fact that they’ve been out for a little bit, but still are coming in smiling and working, I think that’s the most important thing. Yeah, they want to get back. Yeah, we want them back. But in due time, they will be back and we’ll be even better.”
Oladipo’s Expected to Return Within 2 Weeks
Just before the All-Star break, Oladipo was sent to work out with their G League affiliate, the Sioux Falls SkyForce, a move that seemed to signal that his return was imminent.
However, Spoelstra was quick to put a wet blanket on those hopes. “There is no imminent date or announcement,” Spoelstra said of Oladipo’s season debut, per Sun-Sentinel‘s Ira Winderman. “It’s really just part of the process of getting to some five-on-five, live competition.”
On February 25, less than an hour before Miami’s second-half opener against the New York Knicks, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted out an updated report.
“Oladipo, ramping up after offseason quad tendon surgery, joined the Heat on their current six-game road trip and could be ready to play as soon as the second week of March, sources said,” ESPN reported.
A March return date won’t come as a huge surprise for those closely following Oladipo’s rehab journey, as that date “has been a target since the rehab process amped up with the time in Sioux Falls,” Sun Sentinel’s Ira Winderman tweeted on Friday.
Morris’ Return Was Delayed Due to a Prior Neck Injury
Morris has missed 51 consecutive games since suffering a neck injury in November, and while the forward wants to play, Miami is hesitant to clear him due to a “liability” issue, per Jackson. He wrote, “The Heat’s specific medical concern with Morris isn’t clear, but the sources said it was significant enough to make the Heat uneasy about clearing him to play, at least to this point, and significant enough to leave the team concerned about liability issues.”
Morris’ altercation with Jokic is not the first time he’s been left dealing with spine and neck issues. Three years ago, the former first-round pick of the 2013 NBA Draft missed six weeks “following a bout of neck and upper back stiffness,” Jackson reported, “that led him to being diagnosed with transient cervical neurapraxia.”
Morris, who signed a one-year, $2.6 million contract with the Heat in August, averaged 7.7 points and 2.8 rebounds per game before getting injured.