Q: Erik Spoelstra should give Goran Dragic an extra week off. — Toni.
A: Considering that Goran now will be playing with Slovenia in EuroBasket through Sunday (either in the championship or third-place game) in Turkey, then first returning home and packing up before heading to South Florida for the Sept. 26 start of Heat training camp, I am sure that the Heat coaching and training staff already have contingencies in place to ease the rapid transition. To me, camp or even the preseason aren’t the issue, but rather the reality that the NBA season has been moved up this year, with the Heat playing for real on Oct. 18. That will leave Dragic with a one-month turnaround. And that has to be a concern. Expect to see plenty of Larry Drew II, Derrick Walton Jr., Tyler Johnson and Josh Richardson running the point during preseason. The counter is that Goran will arrive in game shape for a team that absolutely has to avoid a repeat of last season’s awful start. He has looked very, very good at EuroBasket, including against some high-level competition. Thursday’s semifinal against Spain and Ricky Rubio should be particularly intriguing.
Q: Is it just me or do you think winning Tuesday against Latvia meant something to Goran, knowing Kristaps Porzingis was the reason he didn’t make the playoffs, so he got him back — Timmy.
A: Of all of Goran’s driving factors, I doubt a late-season Heat loss to the Knicks and Porzingis was what fueled him while wearing Slovenia’s national colors. Goran’s sense of national pride has been evident from the moment his team first took the court in Finland for the opening round of EuroBasket. Knowing that this will be his final run with the national team has provided all the fuel required. And I’m not sure, as Erik Spoelstra noted, that any single loss kept the Heat from the playoffs — more like starting 11-30.
Q: Without superstars, it comes down to high energy, collective effort. That is how the Heat accomplished 30-11 in the second half of last season. — P.F.
A: But it’s one thing to do it when some teams are tanking for the lottery, some teams are resting for the playoffs, and some teams aren’t taking you seriously after an 11-30 first half of the season. As sustained as 30-11 was, it also wasn’t enough to make the playoffs in a league where 16 of the 30 teams do just that. Yes, you can still make the playoffs without a superstar, or even an All-Star, but it also means no one on the roster taking nights off. That’s a grueling way to succeed, when a superstar isn’t there for the heavy lifting. That’s also the road the Heat have chosen. So what will be the biggest game of the season for the Heat? Whichever game is next on their schedule.
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