What should the Miami Heat do next?

Here’s the Sun Sentinel responding to a reader question on if it’s realistic for the Heat to improve their roster this upcoming season while also maintaining salary cap flexibility to pursue Giannis Antetokounmpo the following offseason:

The Heat, without question, will attempt to improve. It’s what they do. Always. It could be player development. It could be through a trade that minimizes 2021-22 payroll impact. It could be forgoing cap space for the 2021 offseason with eyes perhaps instead on a trade (remember, Jimmy Butler was acquired in a sign-and-trade at a stage when the Heat lacked cap space). So, if you are asking whether the Heat will be stuck running in place, the answer is the Heat don’t do the treadmill (unless, of course, it is part of their conditioning program).

Key free agents for the Heat this offseason include Goran Dragic and Jae Crowder. Kelly Olynyk has a player option. Dragic might be open to agreeing to a one-year deal. Olynyk as well. Crowder might be looking for something bigger.

After what the Heat just accomplished, their priority is likely to keep their current core together and strengthen things in an effort to return to the Finals in 2021. That’s a more logical focus than hoping that Giannis, a player on another team, somehow might become available to them in the future.

Heat guard Goran Dragic did not like initial idea of coming off bench when season began

Miami Heat veteran guard Goran Dragic had an excellent season as a super-sub off the bench, then wound up starting for the Heat in the 2020 NBA playoffs, but missed much of the Finals against the Lakers due to injury. Here’s the Sun Sentinel reporting the 34-year-old’s words:

“I don’t feel old, if I’m honest,” he said. “But it does affect you in a good way, when they say you’re old, because then I want to prove, ‘Yeah, OK, you can say that I’m old, but I can still play basketball.’ ”

He paused and laughed.

“I do have to admit, in my case it doesn’t help this gray hair that I have,” he said. “But 30, 40 is just a number.” …

“At the beginning of this season, it was really tough for me, when Spo told me, ‘G, you’re going to come from the bench,’ ” he related. “You know, it was not easy. I was in shock. I was angry. And that was sad. I was sad.

“Then, I looked at this, ‘OK, you can do two things: I can go against Spo and prove you were wrong, ‘I should play more minutes.’ Or I can just give in and get the best out of this situation.’ “

Goran is a free agent this summer. On a list of teams he may play for next season, the Heat should be considered the favorites.

Goran Dragic remains out for Heat in NBA Finals

While the Lakers have been without starting guard Avery Bradley throughout the 2020 NBA playoffs, the Heat will still be without guard Goran Dragic, who came off the bench as a super-sub during the regular season but had been a starter in this postseason. Here’s the Miami Herald reporting:

It looks like the Miami Heat will continue to play without starting guard Goran Dragic on Friday.

Dragic has been ruled out for Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers because of a torn plantar fascia in his left foot, according to a report from The Athletic’s Shams Charania. League sources confirmed to the Miami Herald that the expectation is that Dragic would miss his fourth consecutive game because of the injury.

The Heat are down 3-1 to the Lakers in the Finals, with Game 5 tipping off in a few hours.

Heat center Bam Adebayo hopes to play soon

The Heat need health, and quickly. Sure, they won NBA Finals Game 3 vs. the Lakers last night, but they still face a seriously uphill battle right now. Getting Bam Adebayo back for Game 4 would be a really nice boost. Here’s the Sun Sentinel with the latest on their two main injured players:

Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo said Monday he is hopeful for a return to the NBA Finals as soon as Tuesday night’s Game 4, with teammate Goran Dragic with a far less optimistic outlook.

The two have missed the past two games of the best-of-seven series against the Los Angeles Lakers, after being injured in Wednesday’s Game 1 loss. The Heat then also lost Friday’s Game 2, before rallying behind Jimmy Butler’s 40-point triple-double to win Sunday’s Game 3.

Adebayo has been out with a neck strain, Dragic with a torn plantar fascia in his left foot.

The Heat can’t expect Jimmy Butler to put up monster games like yesterday’s 40-point triple-double. They need Adebayo back, and soon.

Adebayo’s status for Game 4 might not be known until tomorrow afternoon, or even just before it begins.

Lakers take 2-0 NBA Finals lead on Heat

LA Times: “No one expected the Miami Heat to quit, heavy underdogs that they were. They came into the playoffs as the fifth seed, shocked the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks, outlasted the Boston Celtics and forced their way into an NBA Finals they beat long odds to make. So even though Miami lost two starters to injury in Game 1, the Lakers expected a fight. Game 2 was that, but the Lakers prevailed, beating the Heat 124-114. LeBron James finished with 33 points and Anthony Davis scored 32. Jimmy Butler led the Heat with 25, while Kelly Olynyk scored 24 off the bench.”

OC Register: “The Lakers threw the usual gallon of Anthony Davis all over the Heat and put out that fire, but Rondo and Howard have been far more influential than any 20-something fan could have suspected. Howard scored six points in the first eight possessions for the Lakers, swatted away a drive by Jimmy Butler, and generally laid down orange cones all around the lane. Rondo took control of the second quarter when the Lakers were getting a little 3-point-happy against the Heat’s zone. He fed Davis for a bucket, scored from the middle of the lane, fed LeBron James, threw a sublime outlet to Davis on the run for another hoop, and then got four more points to put the Lakers up 16.”

OC Register: “James also finished with nine assists and nine rebounds, while Davis notched 14 rebounds. But even the superstars, who James noted Thursday “aren’t jealous of each other,” had at least one spat during one stretch as the Heat piled up 39 points in the third quarter to resuscitate their chances in what looked like a blowout. Davis smiled sheepishly: “Did y’all see something?” But the Lakers tinkered with their defense and got stops on a team playing without Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic, two of their three leading scorers. While Jimmy Butler put in a strong effort with 25 points and 13 assists, Miami was just 7 for 15 in the fourth quarter. The Lakers did not turn the ball over once.”

OC Register: “With a wing-heavy lineup and Davis in the middle, the Lakers managed to get enough buckets to cinch the win, with a dagger coming by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hitting just his second 3-pointer of the night on 11 attempts. The Lakers shot just 34 percent from deep, a key element to softening the zone. But the simple fact remains: James and Davis are too much talent for the Heat to handle. And by the end, Davis said, his tiff with James was forgotten.”

LA Times: “Rondo joined bench mates Alex Caruso, Markieff Morris and Kyle Kuzma to combine for 39 points, 13 rebounds and 15 assists. They all played their roles the right way and that went a long way in helping the Lakers take a 2-0 lead in the NBA Finals, leaving them two wins from winning the franchise’s 17th championship. Rondo led the way for the reserves, scoring 16 points on five-for-nine shooting, three-for-four on three-pointers, adding 10 assists and four rebounds. Morris had six points and five rebounds, Kuzma 11 points and two rebounds, and Caruso had six points, two rebounds and two assists.”

Sun Sentinel: “With Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic sidelined, the Heat lacked sufficient staying power Friday night against Anthony Davis and LeBron James, falling to 0-2 in the championship series with a 124-114 loss at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex. With Davis closing with 32 points on 15-of-20 shooting and 14 rebounds, and with James going for 33 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, there was no stopping a Lakers team that could close out this series as soon as Tuesday’s Game 4.”

Sun Sentinel: “No matter the injury list, the roster, the playing rotation, it has become clear the Heat do not have an answer for Davis. So after scoring 34 in Game 1, Davis picked up where he left off, becoming just the third player over the past 30 years to score 30 or more in each of their first two career Finals games, joining Michael Jordan and Kevin Durant. Davis and James became the first Lakers teammates to each score 30 or more in a Finals game since Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant in 2002.”

Kendrick Nunn will likely play increased role for Heat in NBA Finals

The Lakers lead the Heat 1-0 in the NBA Finals, and Miami has some injury concerns. One of which could result in guard Kendrick Nunn getting more minutes than previously planned. The OC Register:

Already, the Eastern Conference’s fifth seed faced a precarious uphill push against the Lakers, the top seed out of the West. But the climb got steeper Wednesday, when three of their stars were banged up in a 116-98 Game 1 throttling in the bubble in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

Starting guard Goran Dragic is doubtful to play in Game 2 on Friday with a torn plantar fascia in his left foot, and dynamic big man Bam Adebayo also is listed as doubtful after a MRI revealed a neck strain…

And they’ll likely also turn to rookie Kendrick Nunn, who provided a spark Wednesday, hitting 8 of his 11 shots for 18 points in 19 second-half minutes.

Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra said he enjoyed Nunn’s gutsy performance in his Finals debut not only because it offered a reeling Heat team a glimmer of hope, but because of what it meant for the 25-year-old Rookie of the Year runner-up.

Nunn proved quite capable of starting for the Heat. He did it all season long, before an injury reversed things in the playoffs.

Lakers win big in NBA Finals Game 1, beat Heat 116-98

OC Register: “Your team just got walloped in the opening game of the NBA Finals, with injuries to three of your stars added to the insult — what can you say? “Right now, it doesn’t really matter what you say,” Miami Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra said after his team dropped Game 1, 116-98, a margin that doesn’t reflect how lopsided it was. “We get to work and get together tomorrow.” The most pressing problem for the Heat has to do with personnel. Big man Bam Adebayo played only 21 minutes before he left the game with a left shoulder strain and Jimmy Butler was hobbled much of the time with a sprained left ankle.”

OC Register: “Most concerning: Standout guard Goran Dragic reportedly suffered a torn plantar fascia in his left foot, likely when he’d dribbled into the lane looking to score.”

OC Register: “Kendrick Nunn was the lone bright spot on a dim night for Miami. The Rookie of the Year runner-up, whose playing time has been limited in the bubble after recovering from having the coronavirus and subsequently leaving the NBA campus for a personal reason unrelated to the disease.
But in Dragic’s stead, he looked more comfortable than the Lakers would have liked, finishing with 18 points in 19 minutes on 8-of-11 shooting.”

South Florida Sun Sentinel: “Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic received a preliminary diagnosis of a torn plantar fascia in his left foot after leaving in the second quarter of Wednesday night’s 116-98 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 of the NBA Finals… While cortisone injections could make it possible to return to the series, which continues with Friday’s 9 p.m. Game 2, Dragic is an impending free agent, which could factor into the approach.”

LA Times: “The Lakers are too big: They outrebounded the Heat by 18. The Lakers are too unselfish:They passed their way into so many open three-pointers that they made 11 of 17 at one point. The Lakers are too deep: They came back from that early deficit with LeBron James on the bench. And the Lakers are too, too much Anthony Davis, and who wants to bet he becomes the Finals MVP in his first try? Davis had 34 points, nine rebounds and made all 10 of his free throws. He scored 11 points in the first quarter when the Lakers most needed him and never slowed.”

OC Register: “It wasn’t just Anthony Davis, because he routinely picks on people his own size. It was LeBron James finding himself guarded by Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson (0-for-3), who must have felt like lion tamers carrying hamburger meat. Kyle Kuzma (6-foot-8) had free passage throughout the court, and when Miami tried to gang up on James and Davis, the Lakers just pushed the 3-point button and activated Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Danny Green. Lakers coach Frank Vogel went with his usual two-big lineup, with Dwight Howard starting alongside Davis, because he knew Miami would run out of footage before it went to the bench. At that point either Davis or Markieff Morris (6-foot-8) would be able to handle the center spot.”

Miami Herald: “The Lakers’ All-Star duo of LeBron James and Davis combined for 59 points, 22 rebounds and 14 assists. James finished with 25 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists. The Heat’s All-Star duo of Butler and Adebayo combined for 31 points, six rebounds and five assists. Butler was Miami’s best player Wednesday, finishing with 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the field and 2-of-4 shooting on threes, two rebounds and five assists.”

Miami Herald: “The Heat shot just 11 of 35 (31.4 percent) from three-point range in Game 1. Crowder (4 of 7 on threes) and Butler (2 of 4 on threes) combined to shot 6 of 11 from behind the arc. Heat sharpshooter Duncan Robinson finished 0 of 3 from deep and rookie Tyler Herro was 2 of 8 on threes.”

LA Times: “With 1:23 left in the game, the Lakers had a 17-point lead and substituted in Jared Dudley, Quinn Cook and JR Smith. James sat on the bench covered in towels, then got up to shake hands with each of his teammates as the clock expired. “We always guard against [complacency], but in particular because of how much respect we have for this basketball team,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “We have great respect for those guys. We know that this is just one win. We’re happy that we got one win, but obviously we have to keep our foot on the gas.”

Goran Dragic injures foot in NBA Finals Game 1 Heat loss to Lakers

The Lakers won NBA Finals Game 1 in convincing fashion, and to make matters worse for the Heat, at least one of their key players suffered a real injury. One that can possibly be played through, but even so, it’s a tough situation. Here’s the Sun Sentinel on it:

Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic received a preliminary diagnosis of a torn plantar fascia in his left foot after leaving in the second quarter of Wednesday night’s 116-98 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

According to a league source, the Heat were considering options going forward with the 34-year-old point guard who went into Wednesday’s game leading the Heat with a 20.9-point playoff scoring average.

While cortisone injections could make it possible to return to the series, which continues with Friday’s 9 p.m. Game 2, Dragic is an impending free agent, which could factor into the approach.

The Heat started strong in Game 1. Then the Lakers woke up, took a late first quarter lead, and never looked back. Dragic, a former All-Star, came off the bench as a super-sub this season, but has been starting in the playoffs. He’s a key part of the squad.

With Jimmy Butler out, Heat fall to Bucks

Playing without Jimmy Butler and getting outscored by 20 points in the 4th against a team like the Bucks is a pretty solid recipe for losing a basketball game. And that’s what the Heat did, falling 130-116 to a Bucks team that has now clinched the No. 1 seed in the Eastern conference. Here’s the Miami Herald reporting on Butler but also guard Goran Dragic, who missed the game as well:

Butler has now missed two consecutive games. Coach Erik Spoelstra said prior to Thursday’s game there has already been an X-ray and MRI done on Butler’s injured foot, and “at this point, it’s rest and recovery.”

“Jimmy, his foot is sore,” Spoelstra said. “We want to make sure that he’s feeling like he did even a week ago.”

Meanwhile, Dragic limped off the court with 5.2 seconds to play in Tuesday’s victory over the Boston Celtics after landing awkwardly on his left ankle. The Heat announced later that night that an X-ray on his injured ankle returned negative.

“Goran, obviously you saw at the end of the game with a sprained ankle,” Spoelstra said Thursday. “Moving around a lot better, had a really good day yesterday and today of treatment.”

In the win for the Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo put up 33 points, 12 rebounds and four assists, though he did commit six turnovers. Khris Middleton also scored 33 points, plus six rebounds and an impressive eight assists. While Brook Lopez added 17 points.

In the loss for the Heat, Duncan Robinson shot well for 21 points, as did Tyler Herro who had 20 off the bench.

Goran Dragic remains out for Heat

The Heat will be without Goran Dragic tonight as they face the Hawks. They still should be able to win, because, they’re playing… the Hawks. But it will still be nice when Dragic finally returns from an injury that is lingering a bit longer than expected. Here’s the South Florida Sun Sentinel reporting:

Goran Dragic’s seemingly minor knee issue has extended into a major absence with the Miami Heat point guard out for a fifth consecutive game Tuesday night against the Atlanta Hawks at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Dragic initially missed two games with the knee injury before returning for an uneven four-game span that included pair of 20-point games but also pair of games when he went scoreless in one and scored eight in the other.

He has been out since, starting with the Nov. 18 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. He then had his knee drained the following day, missing the Heat’s just-concluded two-game trip against the Chicago Bulls and Toronto Raptors.