Dragic be­lieves knee is ready for long run

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - Sports - By Ira Win­der­man South Florida Sun Sen­tinel — Edited from news ser­vices

Go­ran Dragic says tak­ing ex­tra time to al­low his for the Heat go­ing for­ward.

PHOENIX — As he pre­pared to re­turn for a sec­ond time from a sore right knee, Mi­ami Heat guard Go­ran Dragic said Fri­day that he be­lieves he got it right this time.

“I had to bat­tle my­self, be­cause I wanted to be there,” Dragic said of miss­ing eight con­sec­u­tive games be­fore re­join­ing the team for the six-game trip that opened Fri­day night against the Phoenix Suns at Talk­ing Stick Re­sort Arena. “The knee just didn’t al­low it to. There was a lit­tle bit of frus­tra­tion, but the only thing that I could control was to do fit­ness ev­ery day, try to do ev­ery­thing that the staff was say­ing. And fi­nally the time came that I could come back.”

Dragic missed two games in early Novem­ber with pain in the knee be­fore com­ing back with an 0-for-7, score­less out­ing in a home loss to the Wash­ing­ton Wizards.

This time he had the knee drained two weeks ago and then took a me­thod­i­cal ap­proach in work­ing his way back, with the Heat 3-5 in his ab­sence.

“It was frus­trat­ing,” he said of be­ing out since Nov. 18. “Ev­ery time when I did some­thing, it swelled up. But fi­nally it’s been calm­ing down. I prac­ticed two, three days straight. The knee re­ac­tion was good.”

Dragic ex­pects a min­utes re­stric­tion, ei­ther one for­mally set or one de­ter­mined through the course of games, with the game against the Suns open­ing a back-to-back set that con­cludes Satur­day against the Los An­ge­les Clip­pers at Sta­ples Cen­ter.

“Prob­a­bly just like how I’m go­ing to feel through the game, and we’ll just com­mu­ni­cate how it’s go­ing to go. I’m go­ing to be winded a lit­tle bit,” he said.

“When you have problems with the knee, you can­not do much. I tried to do my treat­ment. My fo­cus was on that, and then it was start­ing to feel bet­ter. I tried to do con­di­tion­ing. I’m still not there, but I

Heat at Clip­pers

When/Where: TV:

Scout­ing re­port: Ra­dio: think it’s good enough.”

He said the change in ap­proach makes this come­back at­tempt more en­cour­ag­ing.

“I was out for eight games, so I did ev­ery­thing that was in my power and took the time,” he said. “The train­ing staff re­ally helped me with that. That game, I didn’t even have an op­por­tu­nity to prac­tice and now I prac­ticed three or four times with the team.”

Still short: The con­stant for the Heat has been en­ter­ing games short­handed, this time with Has­san White­side and Wayne Elling­ton away from the team for per­sonal rea­sons.

“We’ll have enough to play, that’s the most im­por­tant thing,” coach Erik Spoel­stra said. “We have enough to get the job done. That’s where we are as a team. We have to find a way to get it done.”

Spoel­stra said there is no ex­pec­ta­tion of sec­ondyear cen­ter Bam Ade­bayo be­ing White­side, who is await­ing the birth of his first child.

“We’ve played with­out him,” Spoel­stra said of White­side. “So we have enough. It’s about get­ting it done, re­gard­less of who’s

here. Bam is his own player. He’s finding a way to im­pact on both sides of the floor. That’s all we ask.”

Spoel­stra said the goal re­mains to play Ade­bayo and Kelly Olynyk to­gether, with the two cen­ters hav­ing thrived in the same lineup com­bi­na­tions.

“They’ll still be able to play to­gether. There’s enough min­utes,” he said. “They’ve been play­ing very well to­gether. The sec­ond unit has been play­ing well. They’ve been im­pact­ing the game in a pos­i­tive way.”

Re­union time: Fri­day’s game brought Dragic back to­gether with first-year Suns coach Igor Kokoskov, who helped coach Dragic and the Slove­nian na­tional team to the EuroBas­ket 2017 cham­pi­onship and had been a Suns de­vel­op­men­tal coach dur­ing part of Dragic’s time in Phoenix.

“Es­pe­cially the early stages of my NBA ca­reer, he and Dan Ma­jerle, I was work­ing with those two guys a lot,” Dragic said. “I didn’t play a lot in the first sea­son, so I had to spend a lot of time de­vel­op­ing my game. So all the credit goes to those guys and to Alvin Gen­try, too. They helped me a lot.”

COL­LEGE FOOT­BALL: Ge­or­gia Tech hired Tem­ple coach Ge­off Collins, choos­ing a Ge­or­gia na­tive with a back­ground in de­fense to re­place Paul Johnson as the Yel­low Jack­ets coach. Collins, 47, is a for­mer Florida and Mis­sis­sippi State de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor and Ge­or­gia Tech as­sis­tant who was 15-10 in two sea­sons at Tem­ple . ... Hugh Freeze was in­tro­duced as Lib­erty’s coach, re­plac­ing Turner Gill, who re­signed af­ter his sev­enth sea­son. Freeze spent five years at Mis­sis­sippi and led the Rebels to a 39-25 record and four bowl games but re­signed in 2017 amid a scan­dal in which school of­fi­cials dis­cov­ered a “pat­tern of per­sonal mis­con­duct” start­ing with a call to an es­cort ser­vice from a univer­sity-is­sued phone . ... Seth Lit­trell de­cided to re­main as North Texas’ coach af­ter Kansas State had ex­pressed in­ter­est in him to re­place Hall of Famer Bill Sny­der . ... Kansas RB Pooka Wil­liams was sus­pended af­ter his ar­rest on sus­pi­cion of do­mes­tic bat­tery, the same day the star fresh­man was cho­sen Big 12 new­comer of the year.

GOLF: Charl Schwartzel holed out from the fair­way for an ea­gle on the 17th on his way to an 8-un­der 63 and a oneshot lead af­ter the sec­ond round of the South African Open in Jo­han­nes­burg. Schwartzel moved to 12 un­der and re­placed Louis Oosthuizen atop the leader­board . ... The teams of Bryson DeCham­beauKevin Na, Brian Har­man-Pat­ton Kizzire and Emil­iano Grillo-Graeme McDow­ell shot 13-un­der 59 in scram­ble play to share the first-round lead at the QBE Shootout in Naples, Fla. The teams will play mod­i­fied al­ter­nate shot Satur­day and close with bet­ter ball Sun­day.

ALSO: Alex Mor­gan was named U.S. Soc­cer’s Player of the Year for a sec­ond time af­ter lead­ing the na­tional team with 18 goals in 19 games. ... Derek Fisher was in­tro­duced as coach of the the Los An­ge­les Sparks, a team he watched play at Sta­ples Cen­ter while he helped the Lak­ers win five NBA cham­pi­onships as their point guard. It’s Fisher’s sec­ond stint as a head coach in the pro ranks. He was fired by the Knicks in 2016 . ... Days af­ter get­ting his first ca­reer World Cup win, Ste­fan Luitz could be dis­qual­i­fied for break­ing ski­ing’s dop­ing rules by us­ing an oxy­gen mask. The In­ter­na­tional Ski Fed­er­a­tion said it is in­ves­ti­gat­ing an in­ci­dent Sun­day in Beaver Creek, Colo. Luitz won a gi­ant slalom that started at an al­ti­tude of 10,340 feet. The World Anti-Dop­ing Agency al­lows “sup­ple­men­tal oxy­gen ad­min­is­tered by in­hala­tion,” but notes that sports bod­ies can choose to pro­hibit it. FIS rules state oxy­gen tanks can­not be brought to race venues.


right knee to heal should pay div­i­dends

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