On Friday night, the Miami Heat briefly returned to normalcy, their preferred starting lineup available for the opening tip for just the 12th time this season.
By the second half of that loss to the Indiana Pacers, the concerns returned.
Monday morning, there was yet another twist, this time with center Bam Adebayo declared out due to a non-COVID illness. Then, shortly before Monday night’s game against the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves, the Heat also said forward Jimmy Butler would be out with the ankle sprain sustained in that loss to the Pacers.
Already with an undersized roster, the absence of Adebayo meant working not only without the team’s starting center, but also without the primary backup at the position, with Dewayne Dedmon previously declared out for Monday night’s game against the Timberwolves due to ongoing plantar fasciitis in his left foot.
It marks the second time in two weeks the Heat have found themselves without their top two centers, with that also the case for the Dec. 15 road victory over the Houston Rockets, when Adebayo was sidelined with a sprained left ankle and Dedmon also was out.
The Heat remaining options at center beyond Adebayo and Dedmon are lithe 19-year-old rookie Nikola Jovic, two-way contract big man Orlando Robinson and 42-year-old team captain Udonis Haslem. Both Jovic and Robinson recently had been playing in the G League.
All that comes with second-year center Omer Yurtseven working his way back from November ankle surgery.
The Heat went into Monday 1-2 in Adebayo’s absence this season, losing a pair of games in mid-November when he was sidelined with a bruised left knee.
Adebayo previously had been listed as questionable for Monday night’s game with a sprained right shoulder.
Adebayo’s absence was announced in the wake of Butler sitting out the latter stages of Friday night’s loss to the Pacers with a sprained ankle, an ailment that had him listed as questionable earlier Monday.
Butler now has missed 13 of the Heat’s last 26 games.
After appearing in the season’s first eight games, the 33-year-old veteran forward missed two games in early November with hip tightness. He then returned to play five in a row before missing the next seven due to knee soreness. From there, he has not played more than three consecutive games, sitting out in the interim with absences listed for injury management and a gastrointestinal illness.
Then came Friday, when he scored 12 points in the first quarter, just two more in the second period, six in the third, and then was done for the night with 1:19 left in that third period.
“I think it’s hard to gauge exactly where we’re at, when we haven’t had everyone healthy,” guard Gabe Vincent said Monday, himself working back from eight games missed due to knee pain. “So I think the consistency, everything is different when we have a full roster.
“Hopefully we can get everyone healthy and get firing on all cylinders.”
The Heat complete their four-game homestand Wednesday against the Los Angeles Lakers before leaving for a five-game western swing against the Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Clippers, Lakers and Phoenix Suns.
The Heat went into Monday 16-17 and in ninth place in the Eastern Conference.