Goran Dragic, Meyers Leonard look to regain their Miami Heat footing

By Ira Winderman, Sun Sentinel on

Published in Basketball

Their financial health quickly assured by the Miami Heat at the start of NBA free agency, guard Goran Dragic and center Meyers Leonard spoke Monday about their physical well-being, with the Dec. 22 start of the regular season a month away.

Dragic, who at Friday's start of free agency agreed to a two-year, $37.5 million deal that includes a team option for the second season, said he will need to test at the start of training camp the plantar fascia he tore in his foot during the Heat's NBA Finals loss in October to the Los Angeles Lakers.

"I still need to go through hard practices, and we'll see how the foot reacts," the 34-year-old veteran said. "But we still need to do an MRI and all these things, and we'll see. But so far, I feel good. The pain is over. So I'm walking normally. We'll see.

"The best thing is when you put a load on the leg and when you're done with a couple of those practices, I'm going to probably see where my foot is and how it feels."

Leonard, 28, said he continues to work back from the severely sprained left ankle sustained in February that never was quite right when the NBA restarted its pandemic-suspended season in July in a quarantine setting at Disney World. A starter almost the entire regular season, the outside shooting 7-footer found himself shuffled out of the rotation by coach Erik Spoelstra in the playoffs.

"Going through the ankle injury was not easy, and I feel like I could have helped in many different ways," said Leonard, who signed a two-year, $20 million contract that includes a team option for the second season.

"Because of my ankle, I wasn't able to move and do the things I needed to do. ... I mean it was pretty clear I just wasn't myself, at the time."

Dragic and Leonard return to a team altered by the free-agency losses of Jae Crowder and Derrick Jones Jr., as well as the additions of Avery Bradley and Maurice Harkless.

"I've had a chance to play against them, and both of those guys have guarded me, so I know how tough they are on defense," Dragic said. "And they can shoot the ball."


Crowder and Jones left for the type of multiyear deals the Heat were reluctant to offer, with eyes on 2021 NBA free agency and maximizing salary-cap space.

Leonard spent time with Harkless with the Portland Trail Blazers, where he witnessed Bradley's ability to play lockdown defense against Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.

"I played with Moe Harkless in Portland. Great guy, great teammate, always has a smile on his face. He's versatile, long, athletic, good defender, good hands, can knock down a three, good at playing along the baseline and finishing at the rim," Leonard said.

"Then, obviously, when I was with Dame and CJ in Portland, I saw Avery Bradley give them trouble, and that's hard for an individual to do. Dame and CJ are very talented players, and he always seemed to be an incredible, incredible on-ball defender."

For Leonard, the role again could be in flux, with the Heat drafting Memphis big man Precious Achiuwa in the first round, and with center Kelly Olynyk opting into the final year of his contract.

"Be a great teammate," Leonard said, "and see what happens."

For his part, Dragic said he would be fine either playing as a reserve, as he did during the 2019-20 regular season, or as a starting, which was his playoff role.

"I don't have problems with either one," Dragic said. "Whatever coach needs, whatever this team needs, I'm fine with it. If he needs me to come off the bench, I'll come off the bench. If he needs me to start, I'll start. For me, I never thought about it anymore because I know what I'm capable of doing to help him. That's it. I'm never going to be a problem."

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