Fresh off his full healthy offseason since 2018, Miami Heat guard Victor Oladipo is still taking it slow this preseason.
While Oladipo has been taking part in practices, his preseason debut has been put on hold. He did not play in Monday night’s Red, White & Pink intrasquad scrimmage, was held out of Tuesday’s preseason opener against the Minnesota Timberwolves and will also miss Thursday night’s road preseason matchup against the Brooklyn Nets.
“Just being cautious,” Oladipo said following Thursday’s morning shootaround ahead of the Heat’s preseason game against the Nets at Barclays Center. “But really, honestly, it’s just understanding that it’s a marathon and not a sprint and just making sure that I’m good and I feel great for when it starts rolling. It’s a mutual thing. But I’m here. I feel good. So I just got to continue to prepare myself mentally, physically and get as many reps as I can as far as practices and stuff like that.”
Oladipo, 30, insists he feels healthy after two surgeries on his right knee in the last three-plus years. But he’s still not sure if he will play this preseason, with three games remaining on the Heat’s preseason schedule following Thursday’s game in Brooklyn: Friday against the Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum (8 p.m., Bally Sports and NBA TV), Monday against the Houston Rockets at FTX Arena and Wednesday against the New Orleans Pelicans at FTX Arena.
“We just got to wait and see,” said Oladipo, who signed a two-year contract worth about $18.2 million in free agency to return to the Heat this offseason. “I don’t think it’s something that you rush into. You just got to listen to yourself, listen to your team, listen to your body and make the decision from there.”
Oladipo, who was acquired by Miami through a trade with the Houston Rockets in March 2021, has appeared in just 12 regular-season games with the Heat because of a second surgery that was needed to repair the quadriceps tendon in his right knee in May 2021. He ruptured that same tendon in January 2019 and returned a year later in January 2020.
Oladipo played in his first game last season on March 7 following an 11-month recovery from surgery. But with his season debut coming so late, he eventually fell out of the Heat’s rotation before playing himself into a consistent role off the bench in the playoffs.
With the NBA’s reigning Sixth Man of the Year Tyler Herro expected to move into the Heat’s starting lineup, the team’s hope is that Oladipo can take on that sixth man role in place of Herro this season.
“We’re just getting him ready and that’s really it,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of holding Oladipo out of the first two preseason games. “He had a very good camp, he’s doing some really good work right now and we want to keep in this good place.”
The Heat opens the regular season on Oct. 19 against the Chicago Bulls at FTX Arena.
Along with Oladipo, Herro will miss Thursday’s preseason game against the Nets after banging knees with Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels in the third quarter of Tuesday’s loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Herro remained in that game and later called it “a scare, but I told Spo right away that I was good.”
Spoelstra said Thursday that holding Herro out against the Nets was a precautionary decision.
Heat guard Gabe Vincent, who sat out Monday’s scrimmage and Tuesday’s preseason opener, will also miss Thursday’s game because of knee tendinitis. Vincent has still been able to take part in practices and shootarounds despite the injury, and the plan is for him to make his preseason debut on Friday in Memphis.
“It’s really just preparation and ramping things up,” Spoelstra said of Vincent. “He’s feeling good and he’s going to be ready to go full-go pretty soon.”
Vincent added: “It’s just a little soreness, nothing major. As you’ve seen me around, I don’t seem too concerned about it at all. So I’m just looking forward to getting back out there.”
In addition to Herro, Oladipo and Vincent, Caleb Martin (right knee tendinitis), Omer Yurtseven (left ankle soreness) and Dewayne Dedmon (plantar fasciitis) will miss Thursday’s preseason game.
Spoelstra said the concern level isn’t high surrounding Miami’s injuries, as the Heat simply navigates its five-game preseason schedule.
Jimmy Butler’s dreadlocks are gone, but the Heat star still got what he wanted from the extensions he had put in this offseason.
“To tell you all the truth, what I wanted to do was just do it for media day,” Butler said Thursday. “So every time you [guys] see me on TNT when the Heat plays the Grizzlies, that’s the picture you’re all going to see. Remember that. I [messed] it up for everybody.”
Although the extensions were recently removed, Butler said he’s “definitely going to go back” to the dreadlocks at some point this season.
“To tell you the truth, my daughter really liked my hair like that,” Butler said, referring to his 2-year-old daughter Rylee. “That’s all I really care about. I care about my daughter’s opinion. She doesn’t like my no facial hair. So I got to grow my facial hair back. But she loved the dreads.”
Spoelstra was also a fan of Butler’s now-gone dreadlocks.
“He can pull it off,” Spoelstra said. “The first time I met Jimmy in Europe, he had blonde hair then. Then he came into training camp and it was gone. He can pull off a lot of different looks. But the hair didn’t really throw me for a loop. It was when he shaved. That’s when he looked totally different to me. He looked like he shaved eight, 10 years off of him.”