The Miami Heat forward Markieff Morris only appeared in 10 games before receiving a blindside blow to the back from Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic on November 8, 2021. While Morris has been spotted working out with the team and participating in practices, he continues to be ruled out for games, officially listed as “return to competition conditioning.”
However, on February 24, over three months since he last played, Miami Herald’s Anthony Chiang tweeted out a very telling report, revealing that Morris was traveling with the team to New York, as the Heat’s first game back from the All-Star break is against the Knicks on Friday night.
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While this update does not indicate that Morris will be suiting up to play for Miami’s second-half opener, in fact, it would highly surprising if he did, being cleared to travel with the team is a huge step for the 32-year-old veteran.
Throughout the season, the Heat have brought along injured players on road trips as a morale booster. Center Bam Adebayo was a regular on the sidelines after he underwent surgery on his thumb, and Victor Oladipo, who’s yet to play this season, also travels with the team.
However, Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson reported that while Morris attended a January game in Phoenix, it was only because he had a doctor’s appointment nearby. Heat’s head coach Erik Spoelstra explained on January 8, “He had an appointment on the West Coast and it made a lot of sense just to meet us here. He was able to go through some practice today and he’ll be able to fly back with us.”
However, Morris was not able to travel back to Miami with the team after testing positing for COVID-19.
Morris’ Return Was Delayed Due to a Prior Neck Injury
Morris’ extended absence has created a lot of confusion for Heat fans, concerns that were only compounded by the team being incredibly tight-lipped about his return timetable.
While Morris wants to play, Miami is hesitant to clear him due to a “liability” issue, per Jackson. He wrote, “The Heat’s specific medical concern with Morris isn’t clear, but the sources said it was significant enough to make the Heat uneasy about clearing him to play, at least to this point, and significant enough to leave the team concerned about liability issues.”
Morris’ altercation with Jokic is not the first time he’s been left dealing with spine and neck issues. Three years ago, the former first-round pick of the 2013 NBA Draft missed six weeks “following a bout of neck and upper back stiffness,” Jackson reported, “that led him to being diagnosed with transient cervical neurapraxia.”
Morris, who signed a one-year, $2.6 million contract with the Heat in August, averaged 7.7 points and 2.8 rebounds per game before getting injured.
Morris’ Return Will Bolster the Heat’s Depth at Power Forward
The Heat have obviously been managing just fine without Morris, Miami currently sits in first place atop the Eastern Conference with a 38-21 record. But his return will provide depth behind starting power forward P.J. Tucker, and a 6-foot-9, he’s presents a physically bigger presence than that of Caleb Martin.
Hopefully, both Morris and Oladipo can return soon, as it will offer Heat’s head coach Erik, Spoelstra to get a handle on the rotation before the postseason starts.
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