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Expectations were low for the Miami Heat as the team entered its first season without Dwyane Wade in 14 years, but the reality has proven even worse for a squad that started Wednesday at just 10-26 and 13th in the East. Unfortunately, the team announced more bad news shortly before the night’s tip-off at the Sacramento Kings.
The announcement perhaps hit harder due to its unexpected nature. Second-year wing Justise Winslow will likely miss the rest of the 2016-17 season following upcoming shoulder surgery to repair a torn right labrum:
Justise Winslow will undergo surgery tomorrow to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder & is likely out for the remainder of the season.
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) January 5, 2017
Winslow did not travel with the team and missed two games after suffering a shoulder injury late in Friday night’s narrow loss at the Boston Celtics, but he was originally diagnosed with a stinger, which usually only keeps players out for a short period of time. There was no indication that Winslow would require season-ending surgery.
This development is perhaps worse for the mood surrounding the Heat than for its impact on the team’s fortunes. Miami wasn’t going to make the playoffs with or without Winslow — they sit comfortably in 13th place in the East and face the Kings looking to snap a six-game losing streak. Winslow is a solid defender averaging over 10 points per game for the first time in his career, but he’s shooting just 35.4 percent from the field and 20 percent from three-point range. He is a useful player that isn’t ready to be more than a fifth option for a quality offense, not the difference between a playoff contender and a cellar dweller.
Nevertheless, Winslow’s presence brought hope to the future for a team with very few bright spots. At the very least, Miami and its fans could track the 20-year-old’s development and project his fit alongside center Hassan Whiteside and whichever high-lottery draft pick joins the club this June. That ability to think forward was not meaningless for a franchise used to contending for championships.
This injury doesn’t make the Heat appreciably worse than they already were — which was really bad — but it does make it clearer that they have very little to play for over the last four months of this season. Tanking was already on the minds of Pat Riley and various other Miami executives, and it would not be a surprise to see them shut down Whiteside and other players if the losses continue to pile up. If the Heat are going to be bad, they might as well accept it and try to hold or improve on their No. 3 draft position.
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