After starting all but 15 of his previous 487 regular season games since 2012, Goran Dragic was caught off guard when Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra asked him last season about coming off the bench on a permanent basis in 2019/20, as Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel relays.
“As soon as I heard this, I was a little bit in shock, you know,” Dragic said during an Instagram Live appearance this week. “Shocked. Mad. It was full of emotions going through my head.”
Admitting the idea was “really hard to accept,” Dragic said that he eventually came to terms with it and tried to turn it into a positive, aiming to be one of the NBA’s very best sixth men. It has been an effective lineup change for the Heat, who had been having their best season since Dragic joined the club in 2015. The veteran point guard, meanwhile, was enjoying a nice bounce-back season, with 16.1 PPG and 5.1 APG in his reserve role.
“At the end of the day, I think that was a great change for me, for my career,” Dragic said, per Winderman. “And I’m really happy how I responded — to the players, to Coach Spo, to the trainers. They always stood next to me and helped me. The only thing I had to do was embrace that role and I did it.”
Here’s more from around the Southeast:
- In his own Instagram Live appearance this week, Heat center Meyers Leonard spoke about getting comfortable in Miami after seven years in Portland, adding that he continues to rehab the ankle injury that had sidelined him before the NBA’s hiatus. “I’m feeling much, much better,” Leonard told Heat TV host Jason Jackson, according to Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. “Obviously, I had an injury there right before the season was suspended. And it was bad. I think most people were aware of that. But I’m always incredibly, incredibly focused and I take a very professional approach. So I guess if there’s a silver lining for Meyers Leonard, I’ve had more time to rehab and the rehab’s been very good.”
- As the Wizards prepare for the draft and free agency, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington explores the team’s biggest needs, naming rim protection and perimeter defense as areas the team must improve. Hughes also suggests it could make sense to target a high-ceiling player in the draft, something GM Tommy Sheppard mentioned as a possibility earlier in April.
- In a conversation with Chris Kirschner of The Athletic, former NBA executive Seth Partnow says that he’d be wary of offering a maximum-salary extension to John Collins this offseason if he were running the Hawks. Partnow would be comfortable with a deal in the four-year, $80MM range, which may not be enough to lock up Collins before he reaches restricted free agency in 2021.