Heat Check

Heat starter adjusting his shot to deal with pain. Plus, why Bam doesn’t bite on fakes

Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic scores in the fourth quarter as the Miami Heat host the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday, December 23, 2017
Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic scores in the fourth quarter as the Miami Heat host the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday, December 23, 2017 adiaz@miamiherald.com

Goran Dragic said Tuesday the pain and discomfort he’s felt because of a strained ligament in his left elbow hasn’t gotten any better since his return to the Heat’s lineup Saturday, but he’s not going to use it as an excuse.

Dragic had one of his roughest shooting nights of the season in the loss to the Pelicans, missing 10 of the 15 shots he took from the field including all three three-pointers he attempted. A big reason, he revealed, is because he cannot fully extend his shooting elbow without feeling pain.

“I’m shooting it shorter,” he said. “The problem is every time I extend my arm all the way then the pain comes in. So basically, if I don’t extend my arm, then the shot is short. It’s tricky. I wish it was my right hand [that was hurt].”

Dragic, who missed three games after he injured the elbow late in the Heat’s win over the Clippers on Dec. 16, said there’s a chance he could be dealing with pain in the elbow for an extended time this season. In the meantime, he said, he’s working to figure out how to shoot better without hurting himself.

He’s averaging 16.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 4.3 assists, and is shooting 44 percent from the field and 37.2 percent from three-point range through his first 30 games this season.

“The doc said when it’s a ligament injury it can go both ways,” Dragic said when asked if he’ll have to play through pain the rest of the season. “The doc said as long as I don’t get extended [again], like somebody pulling me really hard, then it’s not going to get worse. So the pain is still going to be there anywhere from two weeks to a month to two months. It depends on your body and how you heal. I’m good as long as the doc says it’s not going to get worse or something.”

ADEBAYO’S DEFENSIVE PROWESS

What makes rookie Bam Adebayo so good at defending perimeter players and not jumping at their ball fakes?

“Genetics? I guess that’s how you can put it,” he said with a grin. “Our AAU team when I was younger was packed with a lot of guards. We had Dennis Smith, Clay Parker, we had a whole bunch of guys that grew up to be big-name point guards. Guarding that every day in practice as a 12-, 13-, 14-year old you develop habits.”

Coach Erik Spoelstra calls Adebayo’s ability to stay grounded and not go airborne defensively on ball fakes “a mental discipline more than” a skill.

“To be able to cover something in a shootaround, in a practice, in a film session and then apply it [is impressive],” coach Erik Speolstra said. “It’s not as if other players aren’t getting the same information. He’s taking it in, and he’s able to do it out on the court and put it out on the wood. That’s a skill. Sometimes it takes other players many more reps and film sessions to build that habit and fight that impulse. He’s able to do that now. That same mental acuity he has and discipline he has applies to a lot of different areas.”

Spoelstra said the fact Adebayo can guard five different positions is something the Heat always liked about Adebayo.

“His competitive disposition, the fact that he really takes pride defensively, for a young player that’s unique,” Spoelstra said. “But he did a lot of those things last year at Kentucky, guarding one through five, switching, showing his speed and quickness laterally. And then you add to that the fact he is open to coaching, he is hungry to learn and get better and that’s what you’re seeing. He’s a much different player now on both ends of the court than he was six weeks ago.”

▪ Adebayo played 38 games at Kentucky and 13 points and eight rebounds over 30 minutes a game. Adebayo has played in 24 games with the Heat at an average of 19.6 minutes per game. So, he hasn’t begun feeling the rookie burn just yet.

“I feel as good as I did [at Kentucky] just going [into the Heat locker room] with a positive mind every day,” he said. “We got a great group of guys in that locker room. Just going in there with those positive vibes your body can’t really wear down because you’re always happy and in a good mood.”

CHRISTMAS GIFTS

Dragic, 31, said he enjoyed spending time with his wife and two kids on Christmas. After the team came in to lift weights on Sunday, coach Erik Spoelstra said he told everyone to take the day off on Monday and to stay away from the arena.

“Yesterday I was really happy because my wife gave me a box for my watches,” Dragic said. “That helps me organize them.”

Dragic said he has “seven or eight” watches including a Tissot he received after leading Slovenia to the EuroBasket gold medal this summer.

“But they’re not those high-end [brands],” he said. “They’re not like Hublots. I got two Rolexs, but that’s it. Everything else is you know [regular].”

▪ Tyler Johnson said the best gift he received this Christmas was “a Nintendo 64 throwback with a whole bunch of games.”

“I thought that was kind of dope, creative,” he said. “The best gift I gave was, I gave my girl two beautiful children. It carries over holiday after holiday.”

▪ Adebayo said he bought his mother “some earrings and a necklace that she’s been asking me for since August.”

“The best gift I received, my mom gave me $100 to get gas,” he said.

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