Heat’s Goran Dragic to sit out third consecutive preseason game with regular season looming

MIAMI — With the preseason winding down, the Heat want to make sure Goran Dragic is ready for the 82-game regular-season schedule.

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.”

The Heat open the regular season in Orlando on Oct. 18 against the Magic.

Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (7) during a scrimmage at FAU in Boca Raton, Florida on September 30, 2017. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Dragic, the Heat’s starting point guard, was available for training camp last month and played in Miami’s first two preseason games. He averaged 9.0 points on 47.1 percent shooting and 1.5 assists in 18.6 minutes in those contests.

After Wednesday’s game, the Heat have one game remaining on their preseason schedule — a Friday matchup against the 76ers in Kansas City. When asked Tuesday if Dragic will play again in the preseason, coach Erik Spoelstra said: “We’ll see.”

“I will treat him day by day,” Spoelstra said before Wednesday’s game. “The key is I just want him feeling fresh, peaking by game one. He’s in great shape, great spirits.”

If Dragic does miss a fourth consecutive preseason game Friday — this scenario is expected at this point — the Oct. 18 season opener against the Magic will mark his first game action since logging 24 minutes of playing time against the Nets on Oct. 5. Despite nearly two weeks off, Dragic said rust shouldn’t be an issue.

“I don’t think that’s going to be a problem,” Dragic said. “That first game, NBA game, you’re always competitive. You’re starting the season, so you’re always looking forward to that game. I’m in good shape, practicing, running, so I don’t see no problem with that.”

Dragic joined his national team in early August and then played in nine games – all victories – in September, including the Sept. 17 championship game. He averaged 27.9 minutes per game in the tournament.

Spoelstra has said it’s not physical fatigue that the Heat are worried about, it’s the mental fatigue because of the emotion Dragic invested into helping Slovenia win the EuroBasket championship.

“Every day is different,” Spoelstra said Tuesday when asked about his plan for Dragic. “Some days he’s gone extremely hard, some days he’s gone light. Is there a perfect book on how to manage this? I don’t know. We’ll manage him every day. Communicating a lot about it. We want him ready and feeling great for Day 1.”

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