The Chicago Bulls came out and pulled off a surprising victory on the road against the Miami Heat in the regular-season opener. For those familiar with the Bulls last season, that would have been a recipe for disaster.
Chicago was 1-14 against the top four teams in the Eastern Conference last season 19-22 on the road while going 0-4 against the Heat – last year’s No. 1 seed – in the process.
For just one game at the start of a long season, this was a fairly significant victory.
It wasn’t just the Bulls potentially shaking off demons and overcoming the absence of key players that made the win special. It was also the debut showing for one Goran Dragic who got to show he’s still got it and left Heat fans wondering if their team made the right decision.
Dragic Outduels Lowry
The Bulls signed the 36-year-old Dragic to a one-year, $2.9 million deal much to the chagrin of many onlookers who felt they needed better insurance for the injured Lonzo Ball. But, bolstered by the strong play of starting point guard Ayo Dosunmu, Dragic gave the Bulls a steadying hand and much-needed scoring punch off of the bench.
He had 12 points, two assists, and two steals while shooting 50% and canning 4-of-5 threes.
On the other side, Heat guard Kyle Lowry had just two points on 1-for-7 shooting. He did add five rebounds, four assists, and one steal but also turned the ball over three times in over 34 minutes of action.
After the game, some Heat fans lamented, not only sign-and-trading for Lowry, but also moving on from Dragic.
This was not a one-off line of thinking, either.
Lowry was the target of comments from Heat president Pat Riley regarding the former being out of shape. The former 24th-overall pick seemed to get into better shape this offseason but it did not translate to on-court success in the opener
Dragic spent seven years with the Heat even coming within two games of an NBA championship in 2020 in the Orlando bubble.
Miami traded Dragic and promising young big man Precious Achiuwa to the Toronto Raptors for Lowry ahead of the 2021 season. They still owe the 6-foot lead guard roughly $58 million of the $85 million deal he inked upon arrival between this season and next with both years fully guaranteed to boot.
A Dragon Never Forgets
Dragic may or may not have taken the Bulls’ opening-night matchup against his former team. He did not take too kindly to being sent to Toronto, letting it be known and ruffling the feather of Raptors fans.
But he certainly has not forgotten his time spent with the Heat.
Slovenia’s all-time leading scorer, Dragic said Miami’s 4-2 series loss in the 2020 NBA Finals to the Los Angeles Lakers keeps him up.
“Every athlete, every basketball player wants to win a championship, and it’s the same thing with me,” Dragic said on media day. “I’ve already been close with Miami. Unfortunately, I got hurt in the NBA Finals and it still — to this day I cannot sleep well because I want to be back. I still have that hunger and I feel good. I feel healthy. I’m 36 years old. I’m not the youngest anymore, but I still have that passion and that is the most important.”
Perhaps that is the biggest difference between Dragic and Lowry who is also 36 years old.
One already reached the mountaintop, the pinnacle of the NBA, and won a championship while the other is still searching – that could continue to work in the Bulls’ favor.