Storyline: Goran Dragic Injury

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For Spoelstra, he’s in no rush to determine who starts at point guard between the two, but he understands the importance of having a healthy Dragic. “We need Goran, and we’ll be able to figure that out. We’ll take this process patiently. This is not going to be something where I’m phasing him in and, ‘You’re playing 32 minutes a game.’ Not at all. Not with 26 games to go, and Goran realizes that too – that he still has quite a bit of work to do – but he can be available and he can still play. If not [Thursday], soon. That’s great news, however you slice it.”

Dwyane Wade, Goran Dragic and James Johnson all will return to the Heat (43-36) lineup tonight against the Knicks (27-51) after each took off Wednesday in Atlanta to rest various ailments. Many believe the Heat would be better trying to fall out of the sixth spot and slip to seventh where they would face Boston, which will be be without All-Star Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart. But not the Heat. “We still have something to play for,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “That’s why everybody is playing tonight.”

Goran Dragic said his strained left elbow felt a little bit better on Tuesday and he’s going to receive all the treatment he can over the next 24 hours with the hopes of getting back on the court Wednesday to help the shorthanded Miami Heat against the Boston Celtics. “The swelling went down a little bit, but still the pain is there,” the Heat’s starting point guard said Tuesday after practice. “So we’ve still got a night to try to do treatment as much as possible. We’ll go from there [Wednesday].”

Dragic, 31, will sit out Wednesday’s home preseason finale against the Washington Wizards. It marks the third consecutive preseason game Dragic has missed, as he continues to rest his body and mind after leading Slovenia to the EuroBasket championship in September. “It’s just trying to be fresh for the season,” Dragic said after Tuesday’s practice. “That’s the main thing, try to be hungry for those games. … You know, it helps me a little bit to recover, to get back to being that hungry guy again.”

Though he says his vision in his right eye is still “a little bit” blurry, Dragic believes it will improve much more by Wednesday’s 7:30 p.m. tip off. “Pain is always there,” said Dragic, who was hurt when he was elbowed in the eye by Toronto’s Cory Joseph early in the third quarter of Saturday’s win over the Raptors. “If you touch it, it’s pain. If I move around the eyebrow a little bit, it hurts. But I mean, I already played with a lot of [other] injuries [when] it was hurting. The main thing is try to open the eye. Now it’s open, so I’m fine for [Wednesday’s game].”

For days, Dragic’s teammates have been playfully calling him “Rocky” or “Drago,” two characters from the classic Rocky movie series. Dragic said some teammates were even playing the original movie’s theme song Eye of the Tiger for him in the locker room and the team plane. “To hear him say ‘Cut me’ with his accent was pretty funny,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. Dragic said his three-year old son Mateo was initially scared when he saw his father with his eye shut on Monday.
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March 22, 2019 | 4:37 am EDT Update
Now that Russell is getting some good pub — the narratives flipping from lottery bust to Magic Johnson gave up on him too quickly — he won’t let it distract him. “I’ve been on the worst side of the tilt,” Russell said after Thursday’s practice at Santa Monica High School. “So to now to be on this side where we’re having a little success, I’ve seen both narratives. I’ve seen every narrative you could throw. When it comes to preparing myself for them, I’ve looked in the mirror and I’ve put myself in the situation before [the media] could.”