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Heat send Napier, Whiteside to D-League

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The move with Whiteside likely indicates that Chris Andersen is on the verge of returning.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat's official Twitter account said today that the team has assigned Shabazz Napier and Hassan Whiteside to Miami's D-League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce. Andre Dawkins is already with the Skyforce now.

For Whiteside, the move makes sense. The Heat added the young center during Thanksgiving week, and he has only played in three games since then. In Miami's power rotation, he finds himself behind Chris Bosh, Justin Hamilton, Udonis Haslem and Shawne Williams. And that's with Chris Andersen and Josh McRoberts out. The Sun-Sentinel's Ira Winderman reported yesterday that the Birdman is on the verge of returning, likely to play in Tuesday's road game against Brooklyn. This move is another indication that Miami may not need him for the next few weeks.

Napier, the Heat's 2014 first-round draft pick, had a nice start to the season as Miami's backup point guard. He even played in multiple fourth-quarter lineups last month. But lately, Spoelstra has relied on Heat mainstays Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole more often. Moreover, Dwyane Wade has assumed many of the ball-handling duties since his return from a hamstring injury two weeks ago. Napier played just 10 minutes in the Heat's win over Utah last night.

Still, Spoelstra will have to tinker with his rotation over Napier's D-League assignment; he just lost a rotation player. We may see James Ennis come back into the rotation as Wade's backup; Chalmers will not be able to play as often as a two-guard without Napier on the team. Spoelstra probably hopes that the Heat can afford Napier's absence for a little while before he returns as an improved player after his time in Sioux Falls.