Barry Jackson

McGruder eager to return while Dragic addresses ‘rest’ concern

Rodney McGruder talks about his return

Heat forward Rodney McGruder spoke to the media on his imminent return to action after a season-long injury after today's practice at the American Airlines Arena.
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Heat forward Rodney McGruder spoke to the media on his imminent return to action after a season-long injury after today's practice at the American Airlines Arena.

Rodney McGruder already has waited four months working his way back from a broken tibia in preseason. So if he needs to wait a bit longer, he’s OK with that.

McGruder has participated in two full contact practices in the past nine days - including Wednesday - and is closing in on a return.

But Erik Spoelstra and McGruder were non-committal about whether he would play Friday at New Orleans.

“I’ve got to work a little bit,” he said. “Being off a couple of months, you just don’t hop right back into basketball shape, so I have some more conditioning that I need to work on. I’ve been doing a little more with practicing and just conditioning, preparing myself for when the time comes on my return that I’m ready to play.”

McGruder said the injury has healed, but there are mental obstacles to conquer.

“I just try to focus on the game,” he said. “Because I feel like you hurt yourself thinking about the injury, because you’re holding yourself back a little bit.”

Missing the first 58 games has “been tough, but I’ve seen my guys having so much fun, I want to be out there with them. And then we kind of hit a bumpy stretch. I want to be out there with ‘em, as well.”

Heat forward Justise Winslow, who is coming back from season-ending shoulder surgery, expects to have a more prominent role with starter Rodney McGruder sidelined by a stress fracture in his leg. His sister and mother helped Winslow during his own

DRAGIC FINE

Goran Dragic, the Heat’s lone representative in Sunday’s All-Star game, dismissed any concerns about whether he got enough rest over the weekend.

“I’m good,” he said. “First All-Star, it’s been enough. It’s a lot of things to do, but at the same time I kind of cleared my schedule. I didn’t do a lot so I could spend some time with my family, with my wife. I enjoyed it.”

Dragic said the goal is to avoid a repeat of last season, when Miami needed help to make the playoffs.

“I think this group knows,” he said. “We were in this kind of position last year. It’s not fun when you win the last game and then you’re waiting on somebody else to see if you’re going to make the playoffs or not. But we need to take care of business here at home, especially because we have a lot of home games in March. I think we have a good advantage on those teams.”

• Wade noted he has been in Miami for only four of his first 11 days with the Heat

“It feels like an extended road trip,” he said. “I was in L.A. longer than I have been in Miami. It’s settled in to be that I’m here. When I got back [from Los Angeles] on the plane, I was coming back to Miami. Now I’m just trying to grow into whatever role I’m going to have game to game and get comfortable with it.”

Before being reacquired by the Heat, Wade hadn’t played before with three other members of the second unit – Wayne Ellington, Bam Adebayo and James Johnson. Wade said he will remain on that second unit.

“It’s definitely going to continue to be a work in progress, but the biggest thing is getting to know them personally,” he said. “On the court, it comes. You practice together, you play together, that’s going to come. Getting to know each other on the personal side helps even more. That builds trust and on the court you need that trust.”

He noted that second unit scored 56 points in the loss in Toronto but must develop more “trust” defensively and in lowering turnovers.

“It’s like having two starting fives and gives us a good chance to win every night,” Wade said.

On Spoelstra saying Wade has a “calming effect” on teammates, Wade joked: “Does that mean I’m like boring. I’ve heard guys say that. I’m thankful for the compliment. I’ve always tried to be that.”

Here’s a look at some difficult decisions Erik Spoelstra will soon be facing, including some interesting numbers on the Hassan Whiteside/Bam Adebayo fourth quarter decision.

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