MIAMI — Rafer Alston's absence from the Miami Heat took another turn Wednesday, with the team denying that the embattled point guard was told shortly before his sudden departure he would no longer get playing time.
Alston was quoted by ESPN.com saying that he chose to leave because of a personal issue involving a family member, plus said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told him that he "wouldn't be playing any more."
On Wednesday, Spoelstra — who, like the rest of the Heat organization, said he still has not heard from Alston since a text-message exchange last week — denied Alston was told that his minutes were gone, saying only that the 11th-year guard was informed before Miami's game against the Los Angeles Lakers last Thursday that Carlos Arroyo was taking over the starting job.
"Actually, he probably still would have been in the rotation," Spoelstra said. "Probably not with the minutes he would have liked, and I also told him that the way the year's been going, that it's still up for grabs. I've had those conversations with everybody in the locker room. It's about production right now."
The Heat hosted the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night. Alston remains listed on the roster, but his image did not appear in the team's pregame introductory video.
Before the game, Spoelstra said he was aware of the comments attributed to Alston.
"My thoughts and prayers are with him and his family," Spoelstra said. "But we still have not talked to him, so our stance is the same. … I think we're all curious just to find out more."
Alston played the first 6 minutes of Miami's win over Golden State last Tuesday, then appeared to be upset when removed from that game. Alston didn't play two nights later against the Lakers, and has not been with the team since.
Alston played in 25 games for the Heat since signing with the club on Jan. 7, averaging 6.6 points and 2.9 assists.
Spoelstra said the team has continued reaching out to Alston, to no avail. He wouldn't say if Alston would be welcomed back, should he even try to return to the Heat.
"As soon as we find out more, I'll be able to tell you more," Spoelstra said.
Alston told ESPN.com, "the way I handled it was wrong" and that "I still want to go back and tell them face to face" about the situation.
The Heat have been having internal discussions for several days about adding a player to the roster, because Arroyo and Mario Chalmers are the only two full-time point guards currently in the locker room — where Alston's nameplate has stayed on his dressing stall. They are carrying 14, one under the league minimum, so they would not have to formally part ways with Alston before making a move.
"We have one spot available," Spoelstra said. "Like a lot of teams that have a spot, you're weighing whether bringing somebody in can actually help, whether it might be a development player, somebody you can secure for the summer, and you're also weighing whether that person can disrupt the continuity based on their expectations."