MIAMI — The Heat were once 11-30, but that seems so long ago.
With the All-Star break ending this week, Miami will look to continue its winning ways Friday in Atlanta. But before the Heat resume play following the break, they will have to face Thursday’s trade deadline.
Here are three things to watch this week …
Buyers or sellers or nothing?: The NBA trade deadline is set for Thursday at 3 p.m. What will the Heat do? After starting the season with an 11-30 record, it looked like Miami would be sellers with the big picture in mind. But now that the Heat have won 14 of their past 16 games, there’s a possibility that they could end up being buyers at the deadline. Even if Miami does make a trade or two before this week’s deadline, the moves won’t be made at the expense of the long-term plan. So don’t expect the Heat to sacrifice future cap space just to make the team better this season … even with the playoffs in reach.
The return of Josh Richardson: There is hope that Richardson will finally return from injury Friday against the Hawks — Miami’s first game following the All-Star break. Richardson has missed the past 19 games with a sprained left foot. The second-year guard has played in just 28 of Miami’s 57 games this season due to various injuries. But with 25 regular-season games remaining, Richardson is expected to have a consistent role in the Heat’s rotation when he returns. With guards Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters, Tyler Johnson, Rodney McGruder, Wayne Ellington and Richardson on the roster, expect to see plenty of three-guard lineups. Richardson is averaging 11.2 points while shooting 39.4 percent, including 31.3 percent on 3-pointers this season.
Playoff race: The race to the playoffs resumes this week. Miami will return from the All-Star break just two games out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference occupied by the Detroit Pistons. And the Heat are just three games out of the No. 7 spot occupied by the Chicago Bulls. The East’s No. 8 seed finished with a 38-44 record in three of the past four seasons. With 25 games remaining, the Heat (25-32) need to post a 13-12 record the rest of the way to get to 38 wins.