Miami Heat’s Secret Weapon Ready to Switch From Bench to Starter

Goran Dragic

Getty Goran Dragic #7 of the Miami Heat in action against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on March 29, 2021.

While Miami Heat‘s Kendrick Nunn has stepped in to replace an injured Victor Oladipo, it should not come as a surprise when Goran Dragic steps up to take on that starting role during the team’s postseason run.

Last year, Dragic went from only starting 10 of 34 games during the regular season to starting 16 of 17 appearances during the Heat’s journey to the Finals. It would’ve been more if the veteran didn’t suffer a season-ending foot injury during Game 1 against the Los Angeles Lakers.

It was unexpected when “The Dragon” stepped in as a starter last season, but it was such a successful change-up that it would be hard to imagine Miami’s head coach Erik Spoelstra not trying it again this year.

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Thus far, Dragic, who turns 35 next month, has had limited impact coming off the bench, averaging 13 points and 3.3 rebounds per game. While he’s only started 10 of his 34 appearances, Spoelstra may be purposely limiting Dragic’s minutes in order to reserve his energy for when it matters most.

“Whatever Coach needs, I’m here,” Dragic said on April 13. “If he needs me to start, if he needs me to come off the bench, whatever they need, I’m going to do for the team. As long as we win. Like I said, the most important thing is to try to win as much as possible and get to the playoffs. And from there, I will see what is going to happen.”


The Severity of Victor Oladipo’s Injury Will Have a Huge Impact on Dragic’s Role

Victor Oladipo

GettyVictor Oladipo #4 of the Indiana Pacers reacts after a hard foul against the Miami Heat during Game One of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2020 NBA Playoffs.

When the Heat acquired Victor Oladipo from the Houston Rockets on March 25, whether or not Dragic would start was no longer part of the conversation. The 28-year-old two-time All-Star was hyped and ready to take on that role before reinjuring his right knee on April 8.

If Oladipo is unable to return, Dragic will need to be ready, and he knows it.

Everybody’s here to do their job. I mean, it’s almost close to the end of the season, so we already know what each player brings and what’s their strengths and what’s their weaknesses, and how we need to play together. So it doesn’t matter if you start or sometimes you’re coming off the bench. I think that’s just the way it is. You just need to be ready.


Dragic Has Gotten Used to Wearing a Knee Brace During Games

GettyGoran Dragic #7 of the Miami Heat dribbles during the first half against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center on January 25, 2021.

“It’s been challenging,” Dragic said of battling through injuries this season. “But, still, you have to continue to fight, try to get better. And as long as we’re winning, I’m fine.”

Personally, Dragic has found it helpful to not focus on the bulky brace he must wear around his leg but to accept it as part of his uniform.

When I put the brace on, if you start thinking too much, ‘I have a brace on, I have a brace on,’ then it’s going to slowly affect you. But if you just go out there and just think about basketball, I think you can get it pretty quickly that you don’t notice that you have something on. And for me, that’s the case right now. I feel weird if I don’t wear it right now. You just have to deal with it and start thinking about different stuff.

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