Heat point guard Goran Dragic praises former teammate Beno Udrih for accepting a buyout agreement, Ira Winderman of the Florida Sun Sentinel reports. Udrih’s buyout after suffering a season-ending foot injury eased the signing of swingman Joe Johnson and alleviated the team’s luxury tax issues, Winderman continues. “In the end, he helped a lot for this team with that buyout, what he did,” Dragic told Winderman. Udrih, who is still utilizing the Heat’s facilities during his rehabilitation, could re-sign with the Heat during the offseason, Winderman adds.
In other news around the Southeast Division:
- The Magic‘s decision to hire Scott Skiles as head coach and bring in an experienced staff has not worked, according to Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. Orlando has a 9-24 record since New Year’s Day and doesn’t look much different than the team that Jacque Vaughn coached last season, Robbins continues. That makes Skiles’ rallying cry to make the playoffs ring hollow, Robbins adds. “The fact that we haven’t been able to consistently do the things that we need to do is not a good sign,” Skiles told Robbins. “But at any point we could do them. We just haven’t gotten it done.”
- Reserve Magic big man Jason Smith has positioned himself to take advantage of the league’s rising salary cap this summer by emerging as a valuable bench piece, John Denton of the team’s website writes. Smith, who becomes an unrestricted free agent again this summer, is averaging 6.7 points and 2.5 rebounds in 14.9 minutes as a rotation player. He signed a one-year, $4.3MM contract with Orlando last offseason and is shooting 49.9% from the field despite being primarily a midrange jump shooter, Denton adds. “I just try to be a spark off the bench,’’ Smith told Denton, adding that he prefers a backup role at this stage of his career. “I can get a feel for the game and how [the opponent] is going to play and how we’re playing on defense.”
- The Wizards lead the league in games lost due to injury but the front office and coaches are a bigger reason why they’ve had a disappointing season, Brett Koremenos of RealGM.com argues. The front office filled the back end of their roster with declining veterans and journeymen, while the coaches failed to make proper adjustments when injuries struck and the team needed to rely on its depth, Koremenos continues. The Wizards take too many low-percentage, long two-point shots because the playbook has a lot of complex, ineffective sets, Koremenos adds.