Tyler Herro to make return tonight vs. Rockets after 20-game absence. Also, more Heat notes

It took more than a month, but Miami Heat guard Tyler Herro is back.

Herro, who had not played since Feb. 23 because of a foot injury, traveled with the Heat to Houston following Thursday night’s 109-105 painful loss to the 76ers at Kaseya Center. The fact that Herro flew with the team to Houston was the first sign that Herro’s return was imminent.

Then Herro was upgraded to questionable for Friday night’s matchup against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center on the back end of the Heat’s back-to-back set to begin its final trip of the regular season.

Then the Heat announced that Herro would indeed by available for Friday’s matchup against the Rockets after missing the previous 20 games.

“It’s great. It’s a needed boost right now, for the stretch run,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Herro’s return during his pregame media session on Friday. “I know how badly he’s wanted to get back out here. I’ve seen his workouts, I’ve seen how much work he’s put into getting his foot right. Sometimes that can be really lonely, when you’re doing all your work behind the scenes. But we’re here now and excited to have him back.”

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Herro will be used as a reserve in his return on Friday, marking the first time he has played off the bench since the 2022 playoffs. He was named the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year during that 2021-22 season.

Friday’s game against the Rockets marked the start of a three-game trip for the Heat that also includes matchups against the Indiana Pacers on Sunday and Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday before returning home to play its final three regular-season games in Miami.

During Herro’s 20-game absence, he dealt with a hyperextended left knee that he recovered from weeks ago but has continued to miss time because of right foot medial tendinitis.

Herro resumed on-court workouts last week after receiving a platelet-rich plasma injection to treat his injured foot on March 15.

Herro’s return adds scoring and outside shooting to a Heat rotation that needs his offensive skill set during its late-season push to avoid the NBA’s play-in tournament. Miami entered Friday with the NBA’s 21st-ranked offensive rating this season.

Prior to the injury, the 24-year-old Herro started in each of his first 36 appearances this season. He averaged career-highs in points (20.8 per game) and assists (4.4 per game) while shooting 43.7 percent from the field and 39.9 percent on 8.1 three-point attempts per game this season before being sidelined for 20 straight games.

There’s more good news for the Heat: Heat starting guard Terry Rozier is available on Friday against the Rockets despite sustaining a left knee contusion late in Thursday’s loss to the 76ers.

Duncan Robinson, who continues to deal with a back issue, is also available for the Heat on Friday. In addition, Nikola Jovic (right knee contusion) and Caleb Martin (right ankle discomfort) are available for Friday’s game.

The only Heat players out Friday are Josh Richardson (right shoulder surgery), Orlando Robinson (G League), Cole Swider (G League) and Alondes Williams (G League).

After Friday’s matchup against the Rockets, the Heat has just five games left on its regular-season schedule.


Defense largely has earned Haywood Highsmith a chance to start 38 NBA games and a rotation player for much of this season.

But it’s his offensive game that has caught everyone’s attention over the past two weeks.

Not only is he shooting 18 for his last 27 on three-point attempts, but he displayed a diversified offensive game against Philadelphia on Thursday when he drove to the basket for a double-pump reverse layup against 76ers center Joel Embiid.

Highsmith has watched Duncan Robinson expand his game -- from three-point shooter to an effective penetrator, as well -- and has been hoping to expand his offensive menu. That growth was evident Thursday.

“I want to keep developing different ways to get better on that end of the floor,” Highsmith said. “And being more comfortable on that end and finding my role and doing the stuff I always do but getting better at it. Duncan is a shooter but he can now handle, finish at the rim, facilitate.”

Robinson would be a template for Highsmith’s offensive growth.

The next frontier offensively for Highsmith would be “a little bit more dribble penetrations off catches, catch and gos, getting dribble handoffs, attacking, making plays for others, maybe coming off screen every now and then and make a play,” he said. “But they don’t really need that out of me right now.”

Much like Heat rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr., Highsmith has studied Jimmy Butler to pick up nuances of his game.

Highsmith is shooting a career-high 40.8 percent on threes, and most of his offense continues to come from behind the three-point line. He has take 174 three-point attempts and 126 two-point attempts.

Defensively, Highsmith is holding the player he’s guarding to 44.3 percent shooting; those players shoot 46.9 percent overall.

The Heat is 35-25 when Highsmith plays and 7-9 when he doesn’t.

Highsmith - who is earning $1.9 million this season - will become a restricted free agent in July if the Heat extend a $2.38 million qualifying offer by late June, as expected. Otherwise, he would become an unrestricted free agent.

▪ Rozier is averaging 26.3 points over his past four games and has scored at least 20 points in six of his last night games with the Heat. Jimmy Butler hasn’t topped 20 points in his past six games.

▪ Joel Embiid, who scored 29 points in the 76ers’ 109-105 win against the Heat on Thursday, said: “We made them pay for the way they were guarding.”

▪ 76ers guard Tyrese Maxey revealed before the game that “Kyle Lowry stepped up in shootaround and says ‘I’ve got Jimmy.’”

Butler surprisingly had difficulty getting shots over Lowry early on, despite Butler’s seven-inch height advantage. Butler closed with 20 on 7 for 17 shooting. Butler ended up not taking a shot with Lowry defending him, per the NBA’s tracking website.