Miami Heat’s Kyle Lowry, Jimmy Butler Closer To Returns – South Florida Sun-Sentinel – South Florida Sun Sentinel

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Out of the chaos that was Wednesday night’s postponement in San Antonio, the Miami Heat took flight to Houston for something they hoped will be closer to normalcy.

Whether that is achievable in the NBA in the midst of omicron likely will remain in question until Friday night’s scheduled tipoff against the Houston Rockets at the Toyota Center.

Initially scheduled as the second game of a seven-game trip, the meeting with the Rockets now will open what is a six-game trip, with the Heat unable to cobble together the necessary eight available players to face the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night at the AT&T Center.

A sign of hope came with the Heat scheduling a Thursday evening practice in Houston. Teams in the midst of severe outbreaks generally are dissuaded from anything more that one-on-one player workouts with coaches.

Among the positive developments for coach Erik Spoelstra’s team, if positives can be drawn in a league were as many as quarter of all players have been impacted by protocols in the recent days:

— Jimmy Butler, who had been declared out for what would have been Wednesday’s game in San Antonio, is moving closer to a return from the sprain right ankle suffered in the closing minutes of Tuesday night’s home victory over the Washington Wizards.

— Emergency 10-day roster additions Kyle Guy, Aric Holman and Haywood Highsmith are expected to be positioned for availability for Friday night’s game, after initial concerns regarding protocols. The Heat also plan to sign outside-shooting specialist Nik Stauskas, a veteran of 335 career regular-season games with the Sacramento Kings, Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Portland Trail Blazers and Cleveland Cavaliers.

— Kyle Lowry’s timetable in NBA health-and-safety protocols leaves the door open to have him back in uniform Friday night, however, as of midday Thursday, there was no indication of him moving toward such a resolution.  Lowry has missed the past two games, after testing positive for COVID following the Heat’s Dec. 23 victory over the Detroit Pistons at FTX Arena.

Those players likely will stand as the swing votes as to whether the Heat return as a competitive factor — or return at all.

Max Strus, Gabe Vincent, Udonis Haslem, P.J. Tucker and Zylan Cheatham remain in protocols, and with injuries leaving the Heat without Bam Adebayo (thumb), Dewayne Dedmon (knee), Markieff Morris (neck) and Victor Oladipo (knee).

In addition, KZ Okpala was added to the Heat injury report on Wednesday with a sprained right wrist that had him listed out for the scheduled game against the Spurs.

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Should all the injured players (including Butler and Okpala) and those in protocols (including Lowry) be unable to play Friday, it would leave the Heat with an available roster of: Tyler Herro, Marcus Garrett, Caleb Martin, Duncan Robinson, Omer Yurtseven, and newcomers Highsmith, Holman, Guy, and, possibly Stauskas, based on the timing of his signing. That would exceed the required eight minimum needed to be available. Such an alignment would have Spoelstra relying on three or four players who have never seen action with the team.

The caveat, however, is that with daily testing now required, availability becomes more of a day-to-day issue. Cheatham, for example, was signed to a 10-day emergency contract to help the Heat get to eight available players, only to test positive himself. His contract expires following Friday’s game.

Cheatham remains in quarantine in San Antonio. Tucker was able to drive to Houston, where he owns a home, and is isolating there. Strus, Vincent and Haslem remain in quarantine in South Florida.

Both Dedmon and Adebayo are on the trip, with only Dedmon’s timetable leaving the door open for a potential return while the Heat still are on the road.

The Heat’s Wednesday postponement came with several members of the organization in quarantine, including assistant coach Caron Butler, trainer Jay Sabol and television analyst John Crotty.

The Heat’s trip is scheduled to continue Sunday in Sacramento, Monday at Golden State, with games following against the Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns and Atlanta Hawks. The Heat are scheduled to return to South Florida during the three-day break between the games in Phoenix and Atlanta.