R.J. Hampton on Miami Heat return: ‘I’ve just been dreaming about playing basketball again’

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Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports

Miami Heat guard R.J. Hampton made his second appearance of the 2023-24 regular season in the team’s matchup against the Chicago Bulls on Thursday.

Across nine minutes of playing time, the 22-year-old dropped three points and two rebounds. He also shot 1-of-1 from behind the 3-point line in Miami’s eight-point loss.

Hampton commented on returning to the floor for the Heat. He was cleared to play last week after he had been ruled out for 10 straight games due to a knee injury he suffered in practice with Miami’s G League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce.

“Man, it’s been crazy,” Hampton said. “I’ve just been dreaming about playing basketball again, sitting on the bench, and whether I was in street clothes or whether I was in game clothes, just wanting to be back out there. And I think it’s one of the most important things in my life. So being back out there was great for me, it brought a lot of joy to me and my family, so I loved it.”

Before joining the Heat, Hampton — who was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks with the No. 24 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft — spent time playing for the Denver Nuggets, Orlando Magic and Detroit Pistons.

Hampton was with the Magic longer than he was with the Nuggets and Pistons. He averaged 8.0 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 0.6 steals per game while shooting 40.8 percent from the field and 34.1 percent from 3-point range across 116 total regular-season appearances with the Magic (15 starts).

Arguably Hampton’s best season in the NBA to this point came during the 2021-22 season when he was with Orlando. He averaged 7.6 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game in 64 games played during the regular season.

Miami’s loss to the Bulls on Thursday marked the team’s 11th loss of the season to this point.

Heat rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr. led the team in scoring against the Bulls. In 34 minutes off the Miami bench, he scored 22 points while shooting 6-of-14 from the field and 9-of-10 from the free-throw line.

Meanwhile, point guard Coby White carried the scoring load for the Bulls. He dropped a game-high 26 points and knocked down four 3-pointers.

Considering Hampton played well in limited minutes off the bench on Thursday, perhaps Erik Spoelstra will call his number in the team’s next game on Saturday, which will also be against the Bulls.

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Jesse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with extensive experience covering the NBA.