Barry Jackson

Dragic sidelined as eye worsens; Heat notes

Miami Heat's Goran Dragic discusses the orbital contusion of his right eye

Miami Heat's Goran Dragic was elbowed in the face by Toronto's Cory Joseph early in the third quarter Friday, March 11, 2017.
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Miami Heat's Goran Dragic was elbowed in the face by Toronto's Cory Joseph early in the third quarter Friday, March 11, 2017.

INDIANAPOLIS - Heat point guard Goran Dragic missed Sunday’s game against Indiana with an eye injury, with the condition worsening overnight to the point that he could not see out of his right eye on Sunday.

But Dragic said doctors have assured him that there will be no longterm damage in the eye from the right orbital contusion sustained from an inadvertent elbow from Toronto’s Cory Joseph in the third quarter of Saturday’s win against the Raptors.

“I cannot even see in the right eye,” Dragic said. “I didn’t imagine it was going to be so bad. The right eye is completely closed. The doctor checked the eye last night. He said the eye is fine. Just swelling. We will do treatment [to get some] swelling down. There’s just pressure. No pain.”

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra cracked that “it was less than half joking this morning about cutting the eye so he could see like Rocky. Everyone is calling him Rocky Drago. He really wanted to play. But the smart thing to do is to sit him and hopefully the swelling will be down by [the Heat’s next game] Wednesday” against New Orleans.

But even with Dragic sidelined by an eye injury and no other stereotypical natural point guard on the roster, the Heat believes it’s covered at the point with Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson, Dion Waiters and even James Johnson serving a point forward role.

Richardson played point guard in his final year at Tennessee but might project better as a shooting guard longterm. Spoelstra said he has done a good job getting the team organized. While his assists are up in increased minutes (from 1.4 last season to 2.5), his turnovers also are up (0.7 to 1.2).

“He’s probably shown the most growth in that department,” Spoelstra said. “It was about developing a full game and to be able to play point guard and organize your team as a young player is probably the thing that has impressed me the most. He really gets your team organized, great voice. Very underrated leadership qualities.”

Tyler Johnson arrived in Miami as a shooting guard but has made continued improvement as a point guard. His assist-to-turnover averages have improved each year, from 1.3 to 0.9 as a rookie to 3.2 to 1.3 in the second season to 3.2 to 1.1 this season.

“I had played it before but playing it at the NBA level is such a different expectation,” he said. “It is definitely a challenge switching to point guard and getting other pro athletes where they are supposed to be. I like playing off the ball instead of bringing it up but that's just because I've done that my whole life. Sometimes other players are good playing off the ball, too. Goran is a point guard and he plays good sometimes when he's not initiating offense. everybody is serving everybody [here].”

Said Spoelstra: “He’s always been great with the ball. He’s very steady. For an aggressive player, that’s unique. He’s grown in his ability to generate offensive looks for us and to get us into offense if he needs to play the point. It fits how we want to play. The more versatility the better. The more responsiblities you can handle for our team, the better.”

COACHING LIST

Spoelstra on Saturday moved past Jeff Van Gundy and Larry Costello for 38th on the NBA’s all-time coaching wins list with 431. Next on the list: No. 37 Doug Collins, with 442.

Spoelstra, who ranks seventh among active NBA coaches in wins, would need to average 45 regular season wins for nearly 20 seasons to catch current leader Don Nelson (1335), though Spurs coach Greg Popovich (1140) could surpass Nelson.

Former Heat guard Dwyane Wade said the Heat’s turnaround is a testament to their coaching staff.

“I think this year probably opened a lot of eyes to his and his staff’s coaching ability,” Wade said Friday of Spoelstra. “What that team has been able to accomplish is incredible, the way they continue to keep winning.”

KIDS STUFF

CNN recently ran a charming story about Jax Rosebush, a 4-year-old Louisville student, who told his mother he wanted to have his hair cut short to look like his friend’s Reddy Weldon. Rosebush is white; Weldon black.

"He said he couldn't wait to go to school on Monday with his hair like Reddy's so that his teacher wouldn't be able to tell them apart," his mother Lydia Rosebush wrote on social media. Their teacher played along, pretending to confuse the two.

That story touched Heat teammates and close friends Tyler Johnson and James Johnson, who invited both boys and their families to drive from Louisville to attend Sunday’s game. Both boys and their families were in attendance.

Tyler and James Johnson see a parallel between themselves and the boys.

“It's something I've always identified with because I'm mixed,” Tyler Johnson said. “I never saw color like that. It's just family. James is a mixed child, not black and white. He has two different sides of his family.”

THIS AND THAT

Saturday’s 104-89 win against Toronto was the Heat’s 32nd game with at least 10 three-pointers, setting a franchise record…According to Elias, Saturday marked the first time since March 2013 that Miami won a game by 15 or more despite being outrebounded by 10 or more (48-35 in this case).

If you missed my piece from Saturday, Waiters explained to me his free agent plans and why he will call Dwyane Wade.

And here’s my six pack of Dolphins notes from Sunday.

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