NEW YORK — Jaime Jacquez Jr. had emerged as a can’t-miss rookie for the Miami Heat. Now, one of the breakout stars of last June’s NBA draft has no other choice but to miss time.
The only player to appear in the first 39 games for the Heat, Jaquez was left behind when the Heat departed for the two-game trip opening with Monday night’s game against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center.
After pushing past a strained left groin during the preseason, the 6-foot-6 wing taken No. 18 out of UCLA is out with a similar injury after an uneven takeoff and concerning landing early in Sunday night’s 104-87 victory over the Charlotte Hornets at Kaseya Center.
“When I went up for the dunk in transition, I just didn’t feel that well when I took off,” said Jaquez, who then sat out the second half. “It totally started to get worse throughout the duration of the game.”
A conversation on the bench with assistant coach Caron Butler convinced Jaquez that rookie valor had to have its limits.
“And then it was getting towards halftime and I was talking to C.B., and we talked it over, he said I should talk to the trainers,” Jaquez, 22, said. “We went in the back, and we came to the decision to shut it down, not try to make it anything worse.”
Jaquez missed two weeks during the preseason with a groin strain.
“I would say I don’t think it’s as bad,” Jaquez said. “I think especially since we’re on it very early, I’m going to make a very quick and smooth recovery.
“A lot of prevention is what we’re looking at right now.”
With the game opening a two-game trip that concludes Wednesday night against the Toronto Raptors, coach Erik Spoelstra indicated the soonest Jaquez would return would be Friday night’s home game against the Atlanta Hawks.
“I have no idea. I’m definitely not a trainer or a medical expert. We’ll see when we get back,” Spoelstra said. “He says and our trainers say that it’s not as severe as the one he had previously. So we’ll see.”
Jaquez went into Sunday leading all NBA players in fourth-quarter minutes, at 359.2.
He said he did not consider the injury a use issue and downplayed his workload. He has played 1,179 minutes over his 39 appearances this season. At UCLA, he played a collegiate high of 37 games last season, when he played 1,229 minutes over the entire season.
“I take a lot of pride in being able to be available and play games, even through things that are hurting and little injuries here and there,” he said. “But I think at this point, this is something that I’ve got to take a little more serious and take some time to just recuperate and get myself to 100 percent.
“But as far as pushing too far? No, I don’t think that’s what it was.”
He did not close the door on Wednesday night, which seems highly unlikely, considering the travel.
“I mean, we’ll see,” he said. “We’ll see how I’m feeling. I know we’re going to take it day by day, and we’re saying that for now. But you never know what can happen.”
The affable California native said he was disappointed that he had to take treatment at halftime while teammates were back on the court to witness Heat icon Dwyane Wade being informed the team next fall would unveil a statue in Wade’s honor.
“I wish I could have been out there for halftime,” Jaquez said. “But I was in the back working on my groin. But I mean, Dwyane Wade getting a statue, no guy deserves it more than him, a big inspiration to me growing up.
“Even being on the West Coast, he’s one of my favorite players of all time. And just to be able to have this moment and get this win for him on this special night is big.”
Wade, in a media session following that ceremony, then spoke of how impressed he has been of Jaquez’s Heat emergence.
“First of all,” Wade said, “Jaime’s a baller.”
That comment was relayed to Jaquez.
“He’s a guy I want to make proud,” Jaquez said. “It’s his organization, it’s his team in Dade County. So anything, any compliment from him means a lot.”