MIAMI – Goran Dragic remains in a walking boot after spraining his left ankle Thursday and is doubtful for the Heat’s game against Utah on Saturday. Still, the team remains encouraged that X-rays were negative and the swelling his down.
Coach Erik Spoelstra would not commit to Dragic’s replacement but Josh Richardson’s return coupled with Tyler Johnson settling into the sixth-man role makes Richardson the likely candidate.
“Let me hold out on this remote hope (Dragic is playing),” Spoelstra said following practice Friday. “Even though Goran is going to be leaving in a boot, but let me have that evening of hope.”
Said Richardson: “We haven’t even addressed it yet or talked about it or anything. We just went through a small practice today to try to get ready for tomorrow to try to get a win.”
Dragic was injured late in the third quarter of Miami’s 98-95 loss to the Bulls Thursday. He leads the Heat (2-5) with 5.9 assists and is second averaging 16.3 points. He is shooting 48.2 percent on three pointers.
Richardson has played in three games since returning from his sprained MCL, improving each time. He had 16 points on 6-of-13 shooting Thursday.
Richardson, 6-foot-6, has played both guard spots and was drafted in 2015 as a point guard after playing the position as a senior at Tennessee. He was asked if he would be comfortable being the primary ball handler.
“Yeah, I feel like I can get it where it needs to go,” he said. “We have plays that are simple, so it’s not like I have to thread the needle on a lot of passes. So if I need to do that, it’s fine.”
Johnson has been among the leagues’ top sixth men. He spent a lot of time working on his ball handling skills during the summer and started the season as Dragic’s primary backup while Richardson was out.
Johnson hinted that he prefers to come off the bench.
“That would be ideal but it’s whatever the team needs,” he said. “It’s next man up.
“I can’t say, ‘Well, you know I play better coming off the bench. I don’t want to start.’ If the team calls for me to start, if that’s what Spo needs from me, that’s what I’ll do. It’s whatever we can do to try and get ourselves back on track and get a win.”
Dragic could miss multiple games. The Heat travel to San Antonio to face the Spurs Monday before returning home to face Atlanta Tuesday. Miami this play Milwaukee at home Thursday.