Miami Heat point guard Goran Dragic, the MVP of this month’s EuroBasket tournament, could be in line for a little less work at the start of training camp next week, Pat Riley said Thursday after a grueling month-and-a-half-long run with Slovenia.
“I think Spo (coach Erik Spoelstra) has talked about that with his staff and also with Goran,” Riley said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt that his teammates would understand after what he’s done over the last almost two months of conditioning, that he needs little bit of rest right now. But that’s Spo’s decision, and I think he’ll probably speak with Goran about that. But we don’t want to get anybody hurt because a guy’s been working so hard all summer and then in the first two or three days of training camp somebody goes down with something. So he’s in great, great condition. I can’t wait to see him and get him back here.”
Riley said watching Dragic shine at the tournament was no surprise to him.
“Going back to when we made the decision to give up two first-round picks to get Goran, who was at the time coming off third-team All-NBA selection, we knew we were getting a great guard and a competitive guard, a two-way player, a great person, all of those things,” Riley said.
“I think since he’s been here, he has proven to be that. I think last year, he had, to me, an All-Star year. If you stop and think about the numbers that he put up. What he did over in Slovenia this year in the game, by being the MVP, and getting 35 points in just three quarters of a game. And then I loved his hulk pose that I saw.
“I’m just proud of him. I’m proud that we have him. And he’s right now the player that I think Spo relies on as much as some of the other guys or maybe even more so in how he wants to play.”
Heat forward James Johnson said it was great seeing Dragic lead his team to a title.
“For him to bring that back for his country and then win MVP, that meant a lot for us as brothers in this locker room,” Johnson said. “I’m sure we all hit him, all posted something or all tweeted something. That’s just what kind of relationship we have. We just want to keep him rolling. He had the special opportunity to be able to play competitive over this offseason, and we know he’s ready, obviously. So you know, it’s just all about keeping him rolling and hopefully making it so he doesn’t hit a wall and we can just get back to the normal terminology of how we play.”
Johnson said he would have no problem with it if Dragic needs time off to rest his body.
“It’s ultimately up to coach Spo and him, and sometimes you have to save a man from himself. And I know Goran, in his heart, he’s not going to want to take a break,” Johnson said. “I’m just very happy for him. Like I said, we just want to keep him rolling.”
The Heat opens camp at FAU next Tuesday and will host an open scrimmage to the public at FAU on Sept. 30. The first preseason game is the next day at AmericanAirlines Arena against the Atlanta Hawks.
IRMA RELIEF EFFORTS
Riley, 72, did more than grocery-shop for the families of local Hurricane Irma victims last week at a local Publix.
His relief efforts took him all the way down to the hardest-hit areas in the Florida Keys, where he and several Heat staffers spent the day working with first responders.
“I didn’t know that was going to happen. I was just going out to get some water and rice and beans and Spam, and then it just ended up [being us heading down the Keys],” Riley said Thursday after the Heat held a press conference outside AmericanAirlines Arena to present their new Nike uniforms and a new advertising patch from Ultimate Software on their jerseys.
“It was heart-rending to go out to these places and see these people. You don’t realize it until you get out there and see what was going on, especially going down there. We couldn’t believe what we were seeing.”
Riley said the Heat’s staff got into a large team van and followed a convoy of three semitractor-trailors and a police escort down to the Keys.
“We were flying down there,” he said. “We had to chase them and just sort of got in line.”
The Heat made it down to the main distribution center on Sugarloaf Key.
“I went in and became part of what everybody else was doing,” Riley said. “Most of them were first responders. We met with more than 100 men and women who were first in there.
“I’m glad I could be part of it.”
In addition to the $10 million that Heat owner Micky Arison has pledged for Irma relief, Pat Riley has pledged to donate $1 million from his own foundation.
▪ Riley was not in town the night of the storm but did return quickly to Miami shortly thereafter, a Heat staffer said.
Riley said that several staffers who rode out the storm at AmericanAirlines Arena helped protect the team’s practice floor after the outer membrane of the facility was ripped off by violent winds. Riley said the staffers used garbage cans to collect water dripping through leaks in the roof and blowers to dry the floor immediately to protect it, otherwise the Heat might have needed to practice elsewhere for a few weeks.