Miami Heat veteran Markieff Morris played for the first time in several months on Saturday.
He had missed 58 straight games prior to Miami’s match against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He suffered a whiplash-related injury earlier this season after being on the receiving end of a violent cheap shot from Denver Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic.
It was a long journey back for Morris. Some people might still be wondering why it took so long for the 32-year-old to make a return to the court. Apparently, the Heat put Morris through an interesting process to make sure he could safely play again.
“That whiplash injury against Denver, combined with a previous neck injury, made the Heat uncomfortable about playing him in a game,” wrote Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.
“In January 2019, while playing for the Washington Wizards, Morris was ruled out for six weeks following a bout of neck and upper back stiffness that led to him being diagnosed with transient cervical neurapraxia.
“The Heat never cleared him to play but instead asked the NBA to address the issue through a mechanism in place to resolve disagreements about whether a player can safely return to the court.
“That mechanism is a Fitness to Play panel, a group of three doctors, including one selected by the NBA, another selected by the players association and another independent doctor.
“The panel ruled that he could play, meaning the Heat will not have liability concerns if Morris has another neck injury.”
Fortunately for Morris and the Heat, the former first-round pick is now back in action. He is expected by some to play a key role in the team’s potential title run this season moving forward.
Miami added Morris via free agency before the 2021-22 season started. He previously played for the Los Angeles Lakers, winning a title with L.A. back in 2020. Interestingly, the Lakers faced the Heat in that year’s finals.
Prior to his injury this season, Morris had been playing solidly for Miami. He averaged 7.7 points and 2.8 rebounds per contest during the Heat’s first 10 games of the 2021-22 campaign.
Against the Timberwolves on Saturday, he played 17 minutes and posted six points and four rebounds. Unfortunately, the Heat lost by a score of 113-104 after scoring just 37 points in the second half.
The team will look to bounce back on Tuesday when it hosts the Detroit Pistons. A win against Detroit would help Miami strengthen its hold on the top seed in the East.