After an emotional 55-hour whirlwind in which Miami split back to-back games, acquired a former third-team All-NBA point guard and learned that All-Star forward Chris Bosh will miss the rest of the season with blood clots in his lungs, most Heat players resisted any temptation to exhale or enjoy a lazy Sunday morning.
Instead, they convened at AmericanAirlines Arena for a voluntary on-court session designed to expedite the acclimation of new Heat point guard Goran Dragic, in advance of Monday’s home game against Philadelphia.
“One of my biggest priorities will be to make Goran feel comfortable as soon as we can,” coach Erik Spoelstra said Sunday afternoon at the Heat’s annual Family Festival. “That’s why we came in… [for] an optional workout that most of the guys showed up to.
“We’ve had to do this already, three, four, five times, where we’ve had to try to get organized with a different lineup, and we’ve become pretty efficient in fast-tracking that process. How long that will take for him, I don’t know, but it’s a priority for me. He’s a high-IQ player. He’ll be able to pick thing up quickly, find out where he can be aggressive and help the team, and that’s what [Sunday] was about.”
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Dragic bemoaned his Heat debut Saturday in which he scored 12 points (all in the second half) and shot 4 for 11 with one assist and one turnover in 33 minutes in Miami’s 105-91 loss to New Orleans.
“It was tough. Sometimes you didn’t know where to go,” he said.
Spoelstra noted that “much of our plan early in the season was built around either Chris Bosh or Josh [McRoberts] having the ball in their hands and facilitating the next action. Obviously, that is a big change now.”
On Saturday, Spoelstra at times experimented with a smaller lineup with Luol Deng, Dragic, Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers paired with one natural power-rotation player.
“It gives us an opportunity to make some plays off the dribble,” Spoelstra said. “As we move forward, we’ll find out if that’s something I go to more. It wasn’t necessarily successful [Saturday]. The alternative wasn’t necessarily successful, either, so I can’t really gauge that right now. But I can certainly see that being a strength of ours, having three guys that can make plays.”
Dragic was often at his best for Phoenix when he pushed the ball and played at a faster tempo. He now joins a team that was last in the league in average possessions per game. So does Spoelstra want to play faster?
“The team will tell us ultimately, but we want to play to his strengths,” Spoelstra said. “We have to defend. We have to be able to play off of misses.”
Regarding the Heat’s pace, Dragic said: “I talked with coach, and I want to play a little bit faster. But it takes time, of course, because last year with LeBron [James], all those guys played fast, but with all the situations with the injuries, coach put that system in that’s slow. Everyone needs to adjust. First of all, I need to adjust to all the players because I’m new here.”
Wade said Sunday he would be “fine” with running more: “When a team misses, let’s get out and see if we can get in transition and get some easy buckets. I need some easy buckets, especially right now to get my rhythm back.”
Wade loved the trade for Dragic but admits “I have to get used to a guy that can create so much attention by putting the ball on the floor. I’m normally that guy.
“It was different when LeBron was here because I was in a different place on the court. Now I have to kind of get used to playing with him and vice versa. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to take some trial and error, but I think we can make it up with his ability to attack and finish. It’s going to be good for us. He’s dynamic.”
The Heat might not be done adding reinforcements. Miami, which has 14 players under contract (including Henry Walker on a 10-day contract), is mulling what to do with its open roster spot. Veteran forwards Thomas Robinson, Andray Blatche and Michael Beasley all will be discussed internally, among others.
Though Beasley received permission to work out at AmericanAirlines Arena in recent days, he did not have an audition for Heat officials.
“This has been a trying year for this team, for this organization,” Wade said. “You have to stay in a positive mind-set. It doesn’t go everybody’s way every year. I’ve been through five Finals, a lot of success. You’re having one bad year. But we can make the playoffs and save it.”