Miami Heat

Despite being red-hot, Heat national TV appearances still being yanked

Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (7) drives the lane as Atlanta Hawks forward Thabo Sefolosha defends during an NBA basketball game, Friday, Feb. 24, 2017, in Atlanta.
Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (7) drives the lane as Atlanta Hawks forward Thabo Sefolosha defends during an NBA basketball game, Friday, Feb. 24, 2017, in Atlanta. AP

The Miami Heat has been the hottest team in the NBA for over a month now, but that hasn’t made them a primetime national story.

Friday, the league announced it was taking the Heat yet again off one its few nationally televised appearances this season, switching its ESPN televised game at Orlando next Friday for Cleveland-Atlanta, two teams with winning records. Previously, the league switched Monday’s Heat-Mavericks game on TNT for Pacers-Rockets.

Both Heat games will remain available on the local team broadcasts of Fox Sports Sun as well as NBA League Pass. But Heat point guard Goran Dragic had no idea the NBA switched nationally televised games until reporters told him Friday before Miami pounded the Hawks 108-90, winning for the 15th time in 17 games.

“A little bit,” Dragic responded when asked if he took the switching of the Heat’s national appearances by the league to local only broadcasts as a slight. “But we’ll try to turn this into positive things for us and try to demonstrate to people that we’re better than that.”

After losing Dwyane Wade in free agency this summer, Miami was only scheduled to make five national appearances between TNT and ESPN to begin with. Although the league prefers to broadcast games featuring teams with winning records, Dragic said the Heat is getting more respect from its opponents.

“Maybe in the past, in the first part of the season, they were like, ‘Oh, we got Miami,’” Dragic said. “I think they are looking at us differently.”

Dragic said he could tell during the team’s league-best 13-game winning streak opponents were motivated to be the team to knock off the Heat.

SHAQTIN A FOOL

The hot topic in the Heat locker room before Friday’s game was JaVale McGee’s ongoing feud with Hall of Fame center and TNT analyst Shaquille O’Neal, who has made it a point to make Golden State’s backup center the primary butt of his jokes on his Shaqtin’ A Fool bloopers segments.

The feud began heating up Friday when O’Neal’s jabs at McGee turned into a back-and-forth on Twitter with McGee’s Warriors teammates eventually coming to his defense. Heat forward James Johnson, a second-degree black belt and former mixed martial arts fighter, said he wants to see if McGee and O’Neal really come to blows over the nonsense.

Earlier this season, Johnson made it on O’Neal’s blooper reel when his inbounds pass to Tyler Johnson bounced off Tyler’s head in a loss at the Lakers.

“For me, it's just funny stuff,” Dragic said. “Everybody has been on Shaqtin’ A Fool. Even me, I was there last year with D-Wade. When he handed me the ball and it just stayed there. But I can feel for JaVale, he's always in there.”

WHITE’S VICIOUS DUNK

Heat rookie forward Okaro White was happy the Heat gave him the green light to go back and participate in last week’s D-League All-Star game. White started the game and had four points, two rebounds and one vicious windmill dunk in 16 minutes.

“I thought that dunk was light,” White said. “I thought it was pretty easy. I wanted the 360 windmill, that would have been better. It’s all in fun. It's a fastbreak, guys are falling back anyway. They wanted to see the dunk. I actually cherry picked the whole time. I was trying to get a dunk and I ended up getting it. It was just a fun weekend.”

White was asked if he might be interested in one day participating in the dunk contest.

“For sure, I think I can,” he said. “But it's not something I would push for and really want to be in it. But I think I can.”

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