The last time Gerald Green played in a game for the Miami Heat, Justise Winslow was only beginning to become a trusted, fourth-quarter defensive stalwart, Tyler Johnson was hardly playing as the third guard off the bench, and Josh McRoberts had taken all of two shots to go with a team-worst minus-22 rating.
A lot has changed while Green has sat and watched the Heat play its past six games without him. Mario Chalmers and James Ennis were traded to Memphis, and all three of those aforementioned players have become valuable weapons off the bench.
Tuesday night, when Miami (6-3) continues its season-long seven-game homestand against the Minnesota Timberwolves (4-6), Green will be available to play. Behind him is his two-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team following a bizarre incident at his Miami condo that led to him being handcuffed and hospitalized.
Now, it’s up to coach Erik Spoelstra to figure out a way to put the 29-year-old binge scorer back into the bench rotation without messing up the winning chemistry that has developed. That’s of course if Spoelstra chooses to do so.
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“All we’ve told him right now is just bring that same approach [great energy and attitude], work to get better, and get back into game shape and then we’ll go from there,” Spoelstra said Monday after practice. “So he understands. The game will dictate how he’ll be worked back in.”
Coming off a successful preseason, Green’s role was supposed to be that of Miami’s most prolific scorer off the bench. Through the first three games Green was doing that and playing defense —something he wasn’t known for with any of his seven previous NBA teams.
Although only a three-game sample size, Green was averaging 10.3 points in 21.7 minutes, shooting a team-best 41.2 percent from three-point range and holding the players he guarded to 31.8 percent shooting (7 of 22), 7.4 percent worse than their regular shooting percentage.
With Green out, the Heat has shot only 27.8 percent from three-point range over its past six games, but Miami has also gone 4-2, played good defense (holding opponents to 40.2 percent shooting, down from 41.8) and found more use for Winslow, Johnson and McRoberts, who have all seen their minutes and contributions go up.
“I’m not trying to step on anybody’s toes,” Green said Monday after practice. “Those guys have been playing well and it’s enjoyable to watch them be successful. I’m just ready for whatever role I have.”
Green said although his conditioning “obviously” isn’t where it was before he missed the past six games, he feels pretty good. Teammate Chris Bosh said Green had his best practice Monday.
“We need him to be who he is, but at the same time we need him to continue to work on his defense,” Bosh said. “He can be an incredible rebounder with his athleticism and I think he’s going to be able to give us that spark off the bench. But we’re going to need to continue to defend and rebound.”
DRAGIC REUNITED WITH FAMILY
Point guard Goran Dragic was happily reunited with his wife Maja, 3-month-old daughter Viktoria and 2-year-old son Mateo on Sunday evening.
“It was great. Kids were happy. My wife, everybody,” a smiling Dragic said Monday after practice. “But then when we got home everybody was so tired they fell asleep. I was a lonely guy — awake and alone. But it was awesome.”
Dragic hadn’t seen his daughter since the day after she was born in Slovenia. Originally, his wife was going to give birth in Miami, but because of complications during her pregnancy the family stayed in Slovenia, and Dragic returned to South Florida to begin honoring his freshly signed five-year, $85 million contract.
“Now she’s completely different,” Dragic said of his daughter. “Now I feel like I need to get to know her. But we’re going to have a lot of time to get good times in.”
Same with his son Mateo, whom he often would have conversations with on Facetime. Mateo talks a lot more now, Dragic said.
“I’m sure it was tough on him at times,” Dwyane Wade said of Dragic. “I caught him on the plane a couple of times looking at pictures of his family on his computer. He’s a real family guy and he missed them. It just makes his heart smile a little brighter.”
Said Bosh, who has a big growing family himself: “Through the ups and downs of this sport and this business you have to have some stability at home. I can’t even imagine how it even was for him, trying to be a bachelor again and live that life. There’s nothing but dirty clothes everywhere and take-out. You need that love in the house and you need that support when you go home because it’s a tough job.”
▪ Wade said his 8-year-old son Zion, hospitalized since last week with an unknown ailment, was expected to be released Monday night. “My son is doing way better,” Wade said. “We’re happy in our household as well.”
Tuesday: Timberwolves at Heat
When/where: 7:30 p.m., AmericanAirlines Arena, Miami.
TV/radio: SUN; WAXY (790), WAQI (710, Spanish).
Series: Heat leads 30-21.
Scouting report: The Heat won 96-84 in Minnesota on Nov. 5 as Miami’s starters outscored Minnesota’s 81-29 and the T’wolves shot a season-low 35.4 percent. … T’wolves point guard Ricky Rubio practiced Monday after missing four games with a hamstring issue but is still listed as questionable.