Veteran forward Markieff Morris was formally cleared to return to the Miami Heat on Saturday, back in the mix for the team’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at FTX Arena.
Because of the severity of the neck injury he sustained in his Nov. 8 run-in with Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, and because of a pre-existing neck injury, Morris had to receive clearance from the NBA’s Fitness To Play Panel in order to return. That panel is made up of an NBA doctor, a doctor representing the National Basketball Players Association, and an independent physician.
The Heat had been waiting several weeks for the clearance.
“We’re all excited about it,” coach Erik Spoelstra said ahead of Saturday night’s game. “And I’m excited for him. This has been a tedious process. And it’s taken longer than everybody anticipated. But these are things that you can’t necessarily control.
“But everything else, he’s really prepared behind the scenes. He’s been working for us for a long time, and he’s ready. So that was like the best piece of news that we were able to discuss today, he finally was cleared.”
Because of the optimism of such a return, and because of the desire to have Morris in game shape upon his return, the Heat had allowed Morris to compete with several recent NBA players in five-on-five workouts at the South Florida gym of skills trainer Stanley Remy. Among those Morris had worked out with was former Heat guard Goran Dragic, who now is with the Brooklyn Nets.
“He’s been working for a long time with us,” Spoelstra said. “He’s been doing contact.”
Morris, 32, has routinely shot before games at FTX Arena in recent weeks. He had been idle since his run-in with Jokic, who was suspended one game for his role in that Nov. 8 incident at Ball Arena, with the Heat utilizing several undersized reserves as backup power forwards, including Caleb Martin and since-traded KZ Okpala.
While the Heat opted to rest players on Saturday’s second night of the back-to-back set that opened with Friday night’s victory over the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers, the Heat now have a healthy 17-player roster, when including two-way players Kyle Guy and Javonte Smart.
Morris was signed to a veteran-minimum contract in the offseason, after time with the Los Angeles Lakers. He becomes a free agent on July 1.