Storyline: Goran Dragic Injury

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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.

On Saturday, before Miami’s 110-107 home loss to Memphis, Dragic had treatment but did not try to shoot. “I didn’t do nothing with my left arm,” Dragic said after the game. “Didn’t shoot, just tried to rest it. Just cardio and stuff to stay in shape. “They told me to calm it down.” The Heat are off today and will have a shoot around Monday before hosting the Celtics. Dragic scored six points and was 1-of-7 from the floor and had three turnovers in Detroit, the one game he did try to play through the injury.

Goran Dragic traveled with the Heat for Monday’s game in San Antonio, but he’s still not ready to return to the court yet. The Heat’s point guard is making progress in his recovery from a sprained left ankle, though. Dragic was out of his walking boot Monday after spending the past four days with it on, and swelling is down. “I’m doing my exercises, treatment and today I did the bike for the first time. So it feels better,” Dragic said after shootaround Monday in advance of the Heat’s matchup against the Spurs.

“I’m ready to play,” Dragic said. “I would already be playing if it was (up to) me. I’m doing everything. Everything. I’m trying to make sure everything is fine. I felt great the last two days, but they still think (I need) those two extra to make sure everything is fine.” Dragic said he argued adamantly with Spoelstra and trainer Jay Sabol in favor of playing, but was told no. “I would not say angry, but I’m disappointed– I don’t know how to say it,” Dragic said. “I want to get back out there with my teammates as quick as possible. But for sure I need to obey their opinion, because Jay knows about those injuries more than I do.”
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