Miami Heat

Enter the ‘Dragon’: Heat acquires point guard Goran Dragic

Phoenix Suns' Goran Dragic, right, drives the ball past Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry (30) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, March 9, 2014, in Oakland, Calif.
Phoenix Suns' Goran Dragic, right, drives the ball past Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry (30) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, March 9, 2014, in Oakland, Calif. AP

The Heat’s long search for an elite point guard to complement Dwyane Wade in the backcourt appears to be over.

Heat president Pat Riley, in wizardly fashion, pulled off a stunning deal at the NBA trade deadline Thursday that landed Phoenix Suns point guard Goran Dragic, who was an All-NBA player last season. Riley got his man, kept the main core of his team intact, and still has a $2.6 million Disabled Player Exception at his fingertips to bolster the roster further.

In other words, the Heat might not be out of this playoffs thing after all. The four-time defending Eastern Conference champions apparently aren’t going to give up their crowns so easily.

The Dragic’s trade was tempered by the news that Chris Bosh, sidelined with an illness after the All-Star Game, didn’t travel with the team to New York and missed practice Thursday to meet with a doctor.

Wade and Bosh flew to Haiti for Carnival on Monday after the All-Star Game, and it was there that Wade said Bosh “wasn’t feeling good.”

Bosh wasn’t feeling well Wednesday and did not practice Thursday, so the Heat sent him to see a doctor. Bosh was in a Miami-area hospital Thursday night undergoing tests. The Heat told the Miami Herald that nothing was conclusive.

“I don’t know when he got sick,” Wade said. “He just wasn’t feeling good, but I don’t know what it was. He just wasn’t feeling good overall.”

Dragic was an All-NBA Third Team selection last season when he averaged 20.3 points and 5.9 assists. He will come to Miami likely seeking a five-year deal worth more than $100 million, and with the Heat parting with so many players and assets to land him, it appears Dragic is in the team’s long-term plans.

Dragic’s official breakout came last season when fellow Suns point guard Eric Bledsoe went down with an injury in the middle of the season. Dragic led the Suns to an excellent second half, and Phoenix almost qualified for the playoffs in the competitive Western Conference.

Riley gave up point guard Norris Cole, forwards Shawne Williams and Danny Granger, center Justin Hamilton, and two first-round picks to bring the 6-3, 28-year-old Dragic to Miami. Dragic’s nickname is the Dragon, which is a nod to his hometown of Ljubljana, Slovenia. A dragon is on the city’s coat of arms.

“I’m excited to bring the Dragon’s fire to Miami,” Dragic wrote on Twitter.

DRAGIC’S BROTHER ALSO IN DEAL

The Heat also acquired Goran Dragic’s 25-year-old brother Zoran in the trade. Zoran Dragic is a 6-5 rookie shooting guard who appeared in six games this season for the Suns. The mega-deal included the New Orleans Pelicans, which traded John Salmons to the Suns for Cole and also ended up with Williams. The Pelicans were expected to buy out Williams, which would make him a free agent.

The Heat plays the Pelicans on Saturday at AmericanAirlines Arena.

“Thank you @MiamiHeat HeatNation for the opportunity,” Cole wrote on Twitter. “Many Great memories! [Two] championships in [three] yrs!”

The Heat’s first game since the All-Star break is on Friday against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Currently in eighth place in the East standings, the Heat (22-30) will be shorthanded to begin the final 30 games of the regular season.

With Bosh out and other players gone via trade, only nine Heat players flew to New York on Thursday afternoon.

“Obviously, for us there has been a lot of talk about getting our lineup out there,” said Wade, who is expected to play against the Knicks after missing seven games and the All-Star Game with his latest hamstring injury. “I don’t know if that’s even going to be possible, so whoever is out there on that floor, we’ve got to do a better job.”

Whenever Bosh rejoins the team, he’ll have work to do in helping rebuild the Heat for the third time this season. The first rebuild included center Hassan Whiteside, who should benefit from the addition of Dragic. The Heat begins the second half of the season carrying 13 players on its roster. The two remaining roster spots likely will be filled by a big man and a small forward.

The Heat could call up 6-10 power forward Khem Birch from the D-League Sioux Falls Skyforce, or the team could add a free agent. The Milwaukee Bucks recently bought out Larry Sanders, and Andre Blatche could be available soon after playing in China.

It’s rarely seamless when major pieces are added to a team during the middle of the season, and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has had to do it twice now. Still, the Heat should have enough talent to qualify for the playoffs, and once there, the team certainly would be considered bracket busters.

A deal for Dragic seemed unlikely for the Heat before this week, but Dragic demanded a trade Tuesday and his agent, Bill Duffy, informed the Suns’ front office that his client wanted to play in New York, Los Angeles or Miami. On Wednesday, Dragic told reporters he didn’t trust the Suns’ management any longer. The posturing put pressure on the Suns to finalize a deal before the deadline at 3 p.m. Thursday.

Breaking down the deal

Heat gets: Goran Dragic and Zoran Dragic (from Suns).

Suns get: Danny Granger and first-round picks in 2017 and 2021 (from Heat), John Salmons (from Pelicans).

Pelicans get: Norris Cole, Justin Hamilton and Shawne Williams (from Suns via Heat).

Friday: Heat at Knicks

When, where: 7:30 p.m., Madison Square Garden

TV, radio: Sun Sports/FM 104.3, AM 790 and WAQI 710AM (Spanish)

Series: Knicks lead 48-59.

Of note: The Knicks are without Carmelo Anthony, who is scheduled for season-ending knee surgery. New York no longer has Amar’e Stoudemire, who was bought out over the All-Star break and now plays for the Dallas Mavericks. Still, this will not be an easy victory for the Heat, which is without Chris Bosh (illness). The team traveled with nine players to New York after Thursday blockbuster trade. Dwyane Wade (right hamstring) is expected to return from his injury.

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