Wade takes lead as Heat head west
MIAMI Between Hassan Whiteside’s upset stomach and the team’s inability to build momentum during its homestand, the Miami Heat must find a way to get going as they begin a six-game Western Conference road trip.
The Heat are off to a 9-14 start this season after coming up empty against the Orlando Magic on Tuesday night and missing a chance to notch a third consecutive victory. And things won’t be getting any easier.
Over the next week and a half, the Heat will not only be away from home, but far from home. They’re in Phoenix on Friday night, in Los Angeles the next night against the Clippers, followed by the Lakers on Monday and then Utah, Memphis and New Orleans on the way back home.
These are the times when a team looks to a 16-year, future Hall of Fame veteran to lead it. And Dwyane Wade has spoken.
“It’s been addressed,” Wade said Wednesday. “You just got to go perform and understand where we’re at in the season. We’re going on the road for six games. We’ve got to play good basketball.”
Wade has noticed the Heat getting complacent after any small success, and that hasn’t allowed them to reel off any kind of winning streak to climb over .500.
“It didn’t feel like the last two games, where we needed wins because we were struggling,” Wade said of Tuesday night’s loss to the Magic. “I think winning two, we just relaxed for some reason, like we got enough wins around here.
“You know, it’s go time. You don’t want to get too far behind because this league is a good league, and you [may] never be able to catch up.”
The loss put the Heat at 1-7 in games against Southeast Division opponents — a division that, entering Wednesday, has no team above .500. Miami is losing to teams it should be better than, a notion to which Wade offers a sharp counterpoint based on the results.
“Are we better?” he asked. “Orlando was better than us coming into [Tuesday night]. We’re not better. They’re beating us, so we’re not better.”
The Heat can’t afford look at the 4-20 Suns that regard either.
“It’s not looking at Phoenix and saying, ‘Oh, we should get that game’ — we’re not one of the best teams in the league,” said Wade, offering a dose of reality. “We’re one of those teams where people look at us like, ‘We should get that game,’ because of our record.”
Making things more difficult, point guard Goran Dragic has missed eight consecutive games with a swollen right knee that has taken longer to heal than the team originally hoped.
“Goran’s continuing to work,” said Heat coach to in Erik Spoelstra, who added that Dragic’s absence shouldn’t make or break this team.
“It doesn’t matter. This is who we have, and we have enough. And we’ve proven that we’ve had enough. I love Goran and I really want him back more than anybody, but that’s where we are right now.”
Added Wade: “You can’t look to what you don’t have. Right now, we have what we have.”
Ankle felt fine for McGruder: Dealing with a sprained right ankle, wing Rodney McGruder was able to keep his starter streak alive Tuesday. Questionable going in, he has now started all 23 games this season.
“The training staff did a good job of just getting me as comfortable as I possibly could,” said McGruder, who had seven points, seven rebounds and two assists in nearly 27 minutes.
It came down to proving to the training staff that his movements weren’t affected by an ailing ankle. McGruder hurt it and exited Sunday’s game early after stepping on Jazz point guard Ricky Rubio’s foot.
“I wanted to go back, but doc didn’t think it was a good idea to go back, so I didn’t,” McGruder said. “Have to [listen] because they’ve seen these situations so many times.”
BOXING: Former light heavyweight world champ Adonis Stevenson underwent emergency brain surgery following his knockout loss to Oleksandr Gvozdyk on Saturday night in Quebec City and remains in a medically induced coma. Stevenson, 41, was in stable but “critical” condition, his doctors said in a news conference . ... Former two-division world champ James “Buddy” McGirt was among nine people selected for induction next year to the International Boxing Hall of Fame. McGirt, 54, retired in 1997 with a record of 73-6-1 with 48 KOs, and since has trained five champions.
COLLEGES: Junior QB Kyler Murray of Oklahoma, sophomore QB Tua Tagovailoa of Alabama and sophomore QB Dwayne Haskins Jr. of Ohio State were named finalists for The AP football player of the year award, which will be announced Thursday. Murray, Tagovailoa and Haskins also are finalists for the Heisman Trophy, which will be awarded Saturday in New York . ... Colorado hired Mel Tucker as its coach. Tucker, 46, who spent the last three seasons as defensive coordinator at Georgia and had the same job with the NFL’s Browns, Bears and Jaguars, will receive a fiveyear, $14.75 million contract . ... Former Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury was offensive coordinator and QBs coach at Southern California. Kingsbury, 39, spent the last six seasons at his alma mater before he was fired Nov. 25 after the Red Raiders finished 5-7 . ... Former Clemson QB Kelly Bryant announced Tuesday night on Twitter that he will transfer to Missouri. Bryant will be eligible to play next season as a graduate student . ... The NCAA imposed two years of probation on Oregon after finding the school violated rules related to the men’s and women’s basketball teams and the track and field program.
GYMNASTICS: USA Gymnastics filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition in Indianapolis as it attempts to reach settlements in the dozens of sex-abuse lawsuits it faces and to forestall its potential demise at the hands of the U.S. Olympic Committee.
SOCCER: Josef Martinez won the MLS MVP award after breaking the season goals record and leading Atlanta United to the championship game. Martinez, 25, scored 31 goals in 34 matches . ... Paris Saint-Germain extended its unbeaten streak in Ligue 1 matches to 16 but still had to settle for a 1-1 draw with host Strasbourg. After its second straight draw, PSG holds a 14-point lead over second-place Lille.
WNBA: The Sparks hired Derek Fisher as their coach. Fisher, 44, played on five NBA championship teams and was coach of the Knicks for one-plus season.
Dwyane Wade believes the Heat grow complacent whenever they have any success.