Whether it’s been coach Erik Spoelstra pushing Rodney McGruder for the NBA’s All-Rookie team or Hassan Whiteside making a case for James Johnson to be named to the All-Defensive Team, the one thing the Miami Heat has done consistently since its midseason turnaround began is support its own.
That trend continued Wednesday when Goran Dragic followed in the footsteps of team president Pat Riley and made his case for Erik Spoelstra to be named the NBA’s Coach of the Year.
In a video shot Wednesday for the social-media site the Uniterrupted, the Heat’s starting point guard called Spoelstra an “unbelievable coach,” who players “love to play for” and who puts “guys in the right spots” to thrive.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
Spoelstra, as usual, tried to laugh off the compliments Thursday morning after shootaround, calling Dragic “a son of a gun.” Asked how he might punish his point guard and Spoelstra’s response was even better.
“I don’t know how I would punish that guy,” Spoelstra said. “Hey, you've got to play 38 minutes. [Dragic’s response:] OK, thank you. You have to do work tomorrow. [Dragic’s response] OK, thank you. The only thing I could do is try to give him a day off. We call it a ‘spa day’ for guys who have logged big minutes. Well, he really gets upset. Say ‘Spa Day’ and [Dragic] thinks you are offending him and his work ethic.”
Dragic confirmed Spoelstra’s story.
“If he says, ‘Dragic, you have a spa day.’ I say, ‘Hell no’,” Dragic said. “Because I feel like I need to stay with my routine and I need to go through practice to stay ready. I don’t like that.
“The other day I was shooting a little bit and he said, ‘No, go downstairs and do your treatment.’ I went to do weights instead. It’s just the way I’m used to.”
No punishment, Dragic said, will ultimately stop him from pushing for Spoelstra to be named Coach of the Year.
“Nobody gives him enough recognition in the league,” Dragic said. “Maybe they didn’t follow us in the beginning or I don’t know what, but what he managed to do with this team is unbelievable. Most of the people who counted us out at the beginning of the season, with how we started the season they said ‘OK, we were right.’
“But how we’ve bounced back, you can see he developed the right system for each guy in this team and everybody is thriving under this system and everybody is enjoying our success and each other’s success. I think that’s the most important thing. You need to build that kind of model and he did it.”
ELLINGTON A NEW FATHER
Heat veteran swingman Wayne Ellington and his wife Safie Khaled welcomed their first child into the world Wednesday afternoon, a baby boy named Wayne Robert Ellington III, who weighed in at eight pounds, five ounces and was 21 inches long.
The team’s leading three-point shooter in terms of makes, Ellington’s status for Thursday night’s game against the Raptors “was undetermined” according to the team. But his teammates said they were expecting him back.
“He’s going to be on fire tonight probably,” Dragic said of Ellington after Thursday’s shootaround. “We’re really happy for Wayne and for Sofia, his wife. Congratulations. Probably it’s going to be a little bit tougher on him going through the nights right now. But it’s an unbelievable experience.”
Dragic said he’s played some of his best games back in Phoenix after his son Mateo, 3, was born.
“The day when Mateo was born, I had one stretch where I [kept topping my] career-high,” Dragic said. “I scored 32, the next game 36 and then 40. That was the week that Mateo was born.”
Heat fans on social media are already referring to Ellington’s son as Trey.
“I actually asked him that and he said he didn't think he was going to call him Trey,” Josh Richardson said. “But you never know he might change his mind.”
▪ Spoelstra said the future playing status of shooting guard Dion Waiters and his badly sprained left ankle remains unchanged.
“He’s feeling better, some of the swelling is starting to come down, but there still is no timetable,” Spoelstra said.
With Chris Bosh, Justise Winslow and Josh McRoberts out, the Heat will have the right after Waiters' misses his third consecutive game Thursday to apply for a roster exception to add a 16th player on a 10-day contract.
Waiters, though, would then have to remain sidelined until that 10-day contract expires. Right now, that would be until after the April 2 home game against Denver.