MIAMI — Heat coaches and players were in a good mood at the team’s annual Family Festival on Sunday afternoon.
Saturday’s big win over the Pistons helped because it solidified Miami’s place in the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Heat entered Sunday in the conference’s eighth and final playoff spot, four games ahead of the No. 9 Pistons and one-half game behind the No. 7 Bucks.
BOCA RATON — By his own admission, Miami Heat point guard Goran Dragic isn’t someone who wants to be on the sidelines during practice.
So when coach Erik Spoelstra approached his star point guard and asked how he was feeling, Dragic jumped at the chance to see some action.
“He said, ‘Do you want to go through the whole practice?’” Dragic said.
Limited in camp following a seven-game EuroBasket schedule with his national team, Dragic did not do five-on-five drills on Wednesday. Spoelstra joked with reporters that he caught Dragic trying to sneak into yesterday’s scrimmage.
“Today, he made a go,” Spoelstra said of Dragic, the reigning EuroBasket MVP. “Yesterday was mostly a day off.”
Dragic likened assistant coach Chris Quinn, tasked with following the 31-year-old point guard around on Wednesday, to “his shadow.”
Setting the early example of wanting to practice as much as he possibly could was important in setting the tone for camp, Dragic said.
“The second part of last season, we had great chemistry, but it’s not like after five months off you’re gonna come back to the gym and suddenly, you’re going to play the same,” Dragic said. “It’s not realistic. … We know that our legs are tired, we’re tired right now, but we need to push.”
Neither Dragic nor Spoelstra indicated how much he would practice on Friday.
MIAMI — The Heat’s current 19-man roster has combined to make zero All-Star game appearances. But Miami is still widely expected to end up as one of the Eastern Conference’s eight playoff teams this season.
That may be tough for some to figure out, but the Heat feel those expectations are justified.
Dion Waiters will be back with the Heat next season.
The 25-year-old reportedly agreed to a four-year, $52 million deal to return to the Heat with a starting salary of $12 million for this upcoming season. With Waiters back on the roster, does Miami have too many guards?
The way the Miami Heat season ended – everything conspiring to go wrong to keep them out of the playoffs – was frustrating enough.
But after the first weekend of the playoffs, that frustration must even higher for the Heat and their fans.
Miami was either one win or on loss by the Bucks, Pacers or Bulls away from making the playoffs. And not just as the eighth seed. If the Heat won one more game they could have been the No. 6 seed with the tie-breaker over the Bucks and Pacers.
And seeing how things went in series openers, is there any doubt the Heat could have been competitive if they snuck in?
They certainly believed it.
“It feels like we could do some damage in that postseason,” coach Erik Spoelstra said the night the Heat did their part by beating Washington but were denied a spot on the postseason when the Bulls and Pacers won.
“We feel like we can be playing for a while, but we just weren’t given that opportunity.”
That feeling should be even stronger now considering that we are a missed jumper by the Pacers’ C.J. Miles from each of the top seeds in the East losing their opening games.
* No. 1 Boston was upset by No. 8 Chicago, 106-102, on an emotional night one day following the death of Celtics star Isaiah Thomas’s sister, who was killed in a car crash in Washington state.
* No. 2 Cleveland escaped with a 109-108 victory over No. 7 Indiana when Paul George gave up the ball and then complained he did not get the final shot. Miles did, had a nice look at the buzzer, and could not knock it down.
* No. 3 Toronto continued its struggles in series openers, losing at home to No. 6 Milwaukee, 97-83.
“What Spo said everybody believes that,” Goran Dragic said. “Everybody thought the same thing. What we accomplished the second part of the season, even some in the playoffs didn’t accomplish that.
“That felt like if we made the playoffs we would be a tough opponent for any team.”