Goran Dragic usually needs to play in pre-season games to get ready for the season. This year, the Miami point guard needed to not play.
It has been a pre-season like none other for Dragic, who spent his summer carrying his native Slovenia to its first European championship and winning MVP honors at that tournament.
But it also meant Dragic came back to Miami late last month worn down by the physically and mentally spent from the grind of that tournament, so Heat coach Erik Spoelstra decided to basically not use his starter for most of the preseason.
Dragic didn’t like the idea at first. He knows now that it was the right move. “I feel like my head is clearing,” Dragic said Wednesday before sitting out Miami’s home preseason game against the Washington Wizards. “I’m OK. Physically, I feel great. Mentally, I’m hungry again for basketball. That’s what we want to achieve and that’s the feeling we want for that first game.”
Dragic hasn’t officially been ruled out for Miami’s preseason finale in Kansas City on Friday against Philadelphia, but he isn’t likely to play. “The big key is I want him feeling fresh, peaking by Game 1,” Spoelstra said. “He’s in great shape, great spirits and we’ll just keep moving forward.”
Dragic, Miami’s leading scorer last season at just over 20 points per game, expects to be full-go when Miami’s regular season starts Wednesday in Orlando. He said Spoelstra recognized how much the European title run the emotional toll if nothing else took out of him.
“I always want to practice and play,” Dragic said. “But sometimes your body or your head doesn’t allow you to do that. He’s good at reading players. He knows what you need. Maybe he saw something that probably was not hard to see. So I crashed a little bit, came back and now it’s on to a new goal here in Miami.” A look at Wednesday’s preseason games:
CELTICS 108, HORNETS 100
Kyrie Irving had 16 points and 10 assists, Al Horford added 15 points and eight rebounds and Boston wrapped up an unbeaten pre-season.
Rookie Malik Monk scored 21 points to lead the Hornets, shooting 4 for 9 from 3-point range. Dwight Howard had 12 points and six rebounds in his first home game.
CELTICS: Jaylen Brown showed he can defend multiple positions, blocking point guard Kemba Walker and forward Marvin Williams on back-to-back possessions. … Gordon Hayward had 13 points.
HORNETS: Michael Carter-Williams (knee) will not be ready for the regular season opener, coach Steve Clifford said. Nic Batum (elbow), Jeremy Lamb (groin) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (personal) did not play. Rookie Dwayne Bacon went 4 for 4 on 3-pointers, accounting for all 12 of his points.
UP NEXT: Boston (4-0) opens the regular season against Cleveland on Tuesday. Charlotte (1-3) hosts Dallas on Friday.
HEAT 117, WIZARDS 115
Jordan Mickey’s 3-pointer with 1.3 seconds left gave Miami the win. Bam Adebayo scored 15 points, Tyler Johnson scored 14 and Josh Richardson had 13 for the Heat.
Jason Smith scored 20 points on 7 for 8 shooting, and John Wall finished with 16 points and eight assists for Washington. Kelly Oubre Jr. had a strong game, with 10 points and 14 rebounds.
WIZARDS: Bradley Beal scored 15, Mike Scott had 13 and Otto Porter Jr. scored 11 for Washington, which led by as many as 13 and never trailed by more than three.
HEAT: Hassan Whiteside and Dion Waiters also got the night off to rest. … Mickey’s 3-pointer was the third lead change in the final 36 seconds. … The Heat had 78 points off the bench.
UP NEXT: Washington (3-1) visits New York on Friday. Miami (3-2) plays Philadelphia in Kansas City, Missouri on Friday.
PHILADELPHIA 76ERS 133, NETS 114
Dario Saric scored 26 points and Joel Embiid, playing for the first time since agreeing to his $148 million extension, added 22 as Philadelphia got its first win of the preseason.
D’Angelo Russell scored 24 for Brooklyn in its preseason finale. 76ERS: J.J. Redick had 18 points for Philadelphia, which held a 52-37 rebounding edge. … No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz didn’t play.
NETS: Caris Levert scored 16 and Jeremy Lin added 14 for the Nets, who led by 10 early then got outscored by 35 points over the rest of the half, and eventually trailed by 36.
UP NEXT: Philadelphia (1-3) meets Miami in Kansas City, Missouri on Friday. Brooklyn (3-1) opens the regular season Oct. 18 at Indiana.