Suspension over, Waiters returns to Heat locker room

MIAMI (AP) — 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.

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