Injuries, timing issues in play with Heat’s three backup centers. A Thursday update

For the third time this season, the Heat has lost a backup center for extended time, with Orlando Robinson joining Omer Yurtseven and Nikola Jovic on the team’s injury list.

And while Robinson’s fractured right thumb stops the clock on his NBA-eligible days, it creates a new problem:

Figuring out who will handle the backup center role before Omer Yurtseven returns to play after ankle surgery, which isn’t expected until following the All-Star break, potentially right after the break.

The most obvious option is Dewayne Dedmon, but he hasn’t played since the team suspended him for a game on Jan. 12. According to a source, Miami has been looking to trading him.

In one scenario, the Heat could use Dedmon for the next three games (Knicks, Bucks and Indiana), then trade Dedmon by the Feb. 9 trade deadline, and then figure out who will play backup center in the four remaining games before the All-Star break (Houston, Orlando, Denver, Brooklyn).

Udonis Haslem, who has played 36 minutes in five games this season, would be another option to play backup center in the next few weeks, even more so if Dedmon is traded.

Asked on Thursday morning if Dedmon is in his thoughts for playing time, Erik Spoelstra said: “He and UD. [Dedmon has] kept himself in shape. One of the things from this is he’s been able to do some good rehab on his foot; he’s probably feeling the best he has all year. UD also feels good; he will be on deck as well” against the Knicks.

Yurtseven potentially could be available immediately after the All Star break, if the Heat believes his conditioning is good enough after a long layoff.

Robinson said he hopes to return in less than two weeks, but that might be ambitious for an injury that typically takes longer to heal.

With the Heat less than $200,000 below the luxury tax line, Miami has an open roster spot but isn’t in position to add a player to a standard contract unless it can make a trade in which in sends out more money than it takes back.

The Heat has explored trading Dedmon, who’s making $4.7 million this season, for a player earning less, which would give them an opportunity to add two players: the one acquired and a 15th player on a standard contract.

At least four veteran centers are available in the trade market -- Orlando’s Bo Bamba ($10.3 million), Milwaukee’s Serge Ibaka (who’s earning $2.9 million), Minnesota’s Naz Reid ($1.9 million) and Chicago’s Andre Drummond ($3.2 million).

But deals for those four would not work, from a cap standpoint, as two-team trades involving Dedmon unless more players are included.

Prominent veteran centers who remain unsigned include Tristan Thompson, Dwight Howard, DeMarcus Cousins, Hassan Whiteside, Ed Davis and Enes Freedom. But if the Heat doesn’t make a trade that creates additional space under the tax line, then the earliest Miami could sign a 15th player and remain under the tax threshold is late March.

Dedmon, who hasn’t played in 10 consecutive games since his one-game suspension Jan. 12, said the team has not indicated if it plans to play him again or trade him.

“I know about as much as you know,” Dedmon said this week.

Dedmon was suspended by the Heat after an incident in a Jan. 10 against Oklahoma City, when he argued with coaches and threw something on the court while retreating to the locker room.

“It’s the business of basketball,” Dedmon said of his predicament. “Just like you show up to work, I show up to work every day. Whatever the team decides to do in the future, or whatever may happen, you role with the punches. I’m going to be professional about what I have to do do with my approach to every game and make sure I’m prepared if my team needs me.”

According to Hashtag Basketball’s injury database, the average time missed due to a fractured right thumb is 32 days. So Robinson likely won’t be available for awhile. He was injured when Cleveland’s Evan Mobley attempted to knock the ball out of his hands, off an in-bound play, during Tuesday’s game.

But Robinson said he hopes to return sooner than later and play with a splint and pain medication.

“It’s not a bad break,” Robinson said. “If I can play on it the right way without further damaging it, I will.”

Robinson said he didn’t know on Tuesday night that Cleveland’s Evan Mobley broke his right finger when he knocked a ball out of his hands in the third quarter. But when his thumb was purple the next morning, he saw doctors, who diagnosed a fracture.

Spoelstra said Robinson will return to Miami “and see how long this will be. The initial prognosis is encouraging, but we’ll see when he fully gets evaluated.”

He is eligible to play nine more NBA games under terms of his two-way contract. The injury could delay his chances of being signed to a standard deal.

Robinson’s injury is disappointing because he had become a serviceable backup center and improved significantly since summer league.

“He just continued to impress us with his stability and each month he’s been an improved player where he could stabilize a unit that needed consistency,” Spoelstra said. “He’s coachable. He listens to the veteran players; he has earned their trust.”

Credit Dedmon for helping Robinson even after losing his rotation spot to him.

“Dewayne has been great, great guy,” Robinson said. “He’s been helping me out this entire process. Even when he was playing over me, he was giving me everything he can. Now that I’m playing more, he’s still on the bench, coaching me and telling me things to look out for, how to not get three seconds in the paint, timing” things. “He’s been very helpful.”

In some games, Spoelstra could bypass using Dedmon or Haslem and instead play a small lineup with 6-7 Jimmy Butler or 6-7 Haywood Highsmith at center. The 6-6 rookie forward Jamal Cain, who’s on a two-way contract, isn’t with the team on this road trip but did play center for the Heat earlier this season.


Gabe Vincent, listed as questionable with ankle inflammation, said he would play against the Knicks.

Guard Victor Oladipo is out with a sprained ankle. “Vic was able to finish the game,” Spoelstra of Tuesday’s Cleveland game. “It’s a sprained ankle. Once you fly,the next day, it can swell up on you. We’ll manage it.”