Miami Heat

Heat still on the mend, head to Phoenix

Goran Dragic, left, talks with teammate while he sat the bench during the Heat vs Detroit game inside the American Airlines Arena on Sunday, January 1, 2017.
Goran Dragic, left, talks with teammate while he sat the bench during the Heat vs Detroit game inside the American Airlines Arena on Sunday, January 1, 2017. cjuste@miamiherald.com

Whether Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters will play in Tuesday’s game against the Phoenix Suns won’t be clear until pre-game warmups, Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Monday.

Both players took part in a two-hour practice after the team arrived in Phoenix on Monday afternoon, Spoelstra said. How Dragic’s back and Waiters’ groin respond after a physical practice will determine whether they will dress for Tuesday night’s game.

Three players remained in Miami as the team began a 13-day road trip to Phoenix, several stops in California and Milwaukee. Josh McRoberts, Hassan Whiteside and Justise Winslow are receiving treatment at the team’s facilities in Miami, Spoelstra said.

Whiteside and Winslow may join the team later in the road trip, he said.

“It depends how well they respond to their treatment,” he said. “With Hassan’s eye injury, he’s not cleared to fly yet. We’ll see how well they recover.”

The injuries — Heat players have missed more than 40 games in the first two months of the season — are giving young players a chance to fully experience NBA competition, Spoelstra said.

“It’s important that this group plays meaningful games and minutes in competition. There’s nothing better for them to develop,” he said.

The game in Phoenix matches two teams in similar situations. The 10-25 Heat and the 10-24 Suns both are trying to develop young rosters. That won’t change Spoelstra’s approach to the game, he said.

“Every game is important. We’re not playing guys just to give them experience. Minutes are earned. The guys know that being productive and helping the team will earn them minutes.”

Dragic remains popular in Phoenix, where he played from 2008-11 and 2012-15 before joining the Heat. Returning to Phoenix brings back pleasant memories and a chance to see family members who still live in Phoenix.

He sees his role as both helping the team win and sharing experience with younger players.

“I feel younger playing with them,” he said.

Tuesday: Heat at Suns

When/where: 9 p.m.; Talking Stick Arena, Phoenix.

TV/radio: SUN; WAXY 790, WAQI 710 (Spanish).

Series: Suns lead 31-24.

Scouting report: The Heat has won 12 in a row against Phoenix, including eight on the road, but Miami enters with a handful of players dealing with injuries. The good news: Phoenix was playing the front-end of a back-to-back at the Clippers on Monday night.

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