Miami Heat veteran guard Goran Dragic has had to watch a lot of games from the bench or on TV this season.
Dragic was forced to watch the Heat’s recently completed seven-game West Coast trip entirely on television, as he remained in Miami to recover from a sprained left ankle.
“It was tough,” Dragic said in advance of Wednesday night’s game against the Toronto Raptors at AmericanAirlines Arena. “I want to be a part of that. But I had to think about my recovery. Luckily, we got technology, so I was on FaceTime most of the time with the guys and talked to them and wished them luck for the game. I watched every game.”
But Dragic is available to make his return Wednesday against the Raptors (8 p.m., Fox Sports Sun), the start of the Heat’s four-game homestand, after missing the past nine games because of the ankle injury he sustained during a Feb. 5 home win over the Washington Wizards.
“I’m feeling OK,” Dragic said Wednesday morning. “I still need to do a lot of work. The ankle, it’s getting better. So, I’m on the right track.
“I need to be smart with this, this injury was pretty bad. And if I was out for two weeks, we’ll see how the ankle’s going to react. I went through some hard practices. And we’ll see. Definitely, I want to be 100 percent when I get back and help my team.”
Dragic said Heat assistant coach Chris Quinn used FaceTime to video conference him into the locker room before games during the seven-game trip.
“I said hello to everybody, and just wished them good luck. And that was it, basically,” Dragic said. “Texting and just trying to stay as much as possible connected with the team. It’s a little bit different when they were on the road. I had my hands full here with my recovery and tried to get better, and a lot of work.”
Dragic, 34, has played in just 17 of the Heat’s first 31 games this season. He has missed two because of health and safety protocols, three because of a strained left groin and nine because of a sprained ankle.
Dragic entered Wednesday averaging 14.4 points on 45.6 percent shooting from the field and 35.9 percent shooting on threes, 3.1 rebounds and 5.3 assists in 26.5 minutes in the 17 games he has played in. Along with Jimmy Butler and Kelly Olynyk, Dragic is one of only three players on the Heat’s roster with a positive plus/minus of plus-34.
The Heat has outscored opponents by 3.2 points per 100 possessions with Dragic on the court, which is the second-best individual net rating on the team behind only Butler. The hope is the return of Dragic will help fix some of Miami’s offensive issues, as the Heat entered Wednesday with the fifth-worst offensive rating in the NBA.
Because of the 14 games that Dragic has missed and the 12 games that Butler has missed this season, the Heat’s core trio of Bam Adebayo, Butler and Dragic has logged just 66 minutes together this season and is a plus-5 in that span. This three-man combination was a plus-83 in 352 minutes during last season’s playoff run that ended in the NBA Finals.
“It’s too bad that we couldn’t play more minutes together,” said Dragic, who began the season in a bench role as the Heat’s sixth man but replaced Tyler Herro in the starting lineup in the same Feb. 5 game he sprained his ankle in. “Maybe for something else, it’s good. We hit adversity right away. I think when we make the playoffs, we’re already going to be battle-tested. Luckily for us, we have a lot of guys who are playing well, who can step in and can finish the job. That’s why we have a deep team. I try to look at those things on a positive note.”
▪ While Dragic is available, Herro (right hip contusion) will miss his second straight game Wednesday against the Raptors.
The Heat will also be without Avery Bradley (right calf strain) and Meyers Leonard (season-ending shoulder surgery).
But Heat center Chris Silva is available to play Wednesday after missing the past 18 games because of a left hip flexor strain.
▪ Of Adebayo and Butler not being voted into the 2021 NBA All-Star Game, Dragic said: “Definitely, I was surprised. Both of those guys deserve to be there. What they did last year was amazing. Even this year when they were playing games, they put huge numbers up there. Definitely, they deserve it. But in the end, I don’t know who’s making those decisions. If it’s media or coaches or players, it was just a lot of different votes that I don’t agree with. But it is what it is.”
The coaches vote on the seven All-Star reserves from each conference.