Barry Jackson

Dragic thriving, hoping to stay in Miami amid trade rumors

Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic, shoots to the basket against Mavericks' guard Deron Williams, in the first quarter of the Miami Heat vs Dallas Mavericks, NBA game at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Thursday, January 19, 2017.
Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic, shoots to the basket against Mavericks' guard Deron Williams, in the first quarter of the Miami Heat vs Dallas Mavericks, NBA game at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Thursday, January 19, 2017. pportal@miamiherald.com

Goran Dragic’s text messages light up Erik Spoelstra’s phone a couple of hours after games, the Heat point guard bemoaning, in his coach’s words, “things he could have done better or differently.”

Spoelstra’s reaction?

“I just text him back, ‘go to bed, spend time with your family, and we’ll see you tomorrow.’ ”

Dragic has been exemplary in his second full season with the Heat, ranking 11th among all point guards in scoring (19.4 per game), ninth in assists (6.3), seventh in field-goal percentage (46.4) and fifth in three-point percentage (40.7).

“If I’m honest, I feel even better here than in Phoenix,” Dragic said late Thursday night, after scoring 32 points in a 99-95 win against Dallas. “I like all my teammates. I feel like I’m in the right spot. My head is clear; I’m working hard to be a better player and teammate.

“I feel awesome. I feel like I have three aspects: midrange, threes and driving. It makes my job a lot easier than before.”

Dragic’s excellent play and reasonable contract by today’s NBA standards (he’s due $17 million next season) have led to trade inquiries, but the Heat — at least for now — appears reluctant to deal him.

ESPN reported Friday that the Orlando Magic recently inquired about Dragic but that the Heat rebuffed an offer that was believed to have included center Nikola Vucevic and a future first-round pick.

Dragic very much hopes to stay with the Heat long term.

“I feel really good here,” said Dragic, in the second year of a five-year, $85 million contract. “I feel like I’m in the right spot. The city is awesome, the fans are great, the organization is the top organization in the league. My family, they’re feeling amazing, they love the city. Of course, I want to stay here.”

Dragic, 30, is optimistic about a quick Heat turnaround because of confidence in president Pat Riley, general manager Andy Elisburg and owner Micky Arison.

“The history talks about what Pat, Andy, Micky, what those guys are able to do in one summer,” he said. “I have complete faith in the front office. They’re going to do an amazing job. They did before, now and in the future.”

In explaining his best season since he was named third-team All NBA for Phoenix in 2013-14, Dragic cites multiple factors.

Among them: Working out with the Slovenian national team last summer, which allowed him to report to camp in great shape (“I was in constant motion”); better communication with teammates; and a subtle change in his midrange game.

“That midrange shot, I always was going step backs,” he said. “Not anymore. Now it’s like a rhythm shot. The older you get, the more you need to work on your game and survive those young fellows.”

Spoelstra, meanwhile, likes how Dragic “is communicating more as a leader on this team. Guys want him to step up and lead. Last couple years were a little uncomfortable for him. Now he’s stepping up.

“This team needed him to be more vocal and take more ownership and hold guys accountable. They love it when they see his fire.”

Dragic said that communication has extended to his interaction with Spoelstra.

“I never had this kind of coach who is communicating, who is texting you,” Dragic said. “I was a little bit uncomfortable at the beginning because I was never in this situation.

“I opened up a little bit. It makes my job easier. He tells me what he sees on the floor. I tell him what I see. Only like that you can correct mistakes.”

Dragic appreciates that Spoelstra visited him in Slovenia last summer, when he was training for the national team.

“Even when I was in the offseason he was texting me how I’m doing, how is my family doing and he came to visit me,” he said. “That means a lot to me and to my family because you feel wanted.”

And Spoelstra appreciates the growth in several areas of his game.

“He has improved, and I don’t know if anyone has noticed,” Spoelstra said. “He’s worked so much on his game. Defensively, he is really taking pride in defending pick and rolls and challenging shots, rebounding the ball better, making hustle plays, effort plays.

“Offensively, this is the best he has ever shot the ball from deep, but I think just as important, or if not more important, he is able to really take advantage of that midrange, which is so vital in close games. This game means so much to Goran Dragic. When we lose, he doesn’t sleep.”

And what about those late-night texts to his coach?

“Sometimes it’s hard after the game,” he said. “But this is who I am. Turn on the game and see what I did wrong, how I can improve.”

Saturday: Bucks at Heat

When/where: 7:30 p.m., AmericanAirlines Arena.

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

Series: Heat leads 62-41.

Scouting report: The teams have split two games this season, Miami winning 96-73 at home on Nov. 17 and losing 116-108 on Jan. 13 in Milwaukee. … The Heat will be trying to achieve its first three-game winning streak of the season. … Milwaukee had lost three in a row, allowing 113 points per game over that stretch, entering Friday's game at Orlando.

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