MIAMI — Goran Dragic usually needs to play in preseason games to get ready for the season.
This year, the Miami point guard needed to not play.
It has been a preseason like none other for Dragic, who spent his summer carrying his native Slovenia to its first European championship and winning MVP honours at that tournament. But it also meant Dragic came back to Miami late last month worn down by the physically and mentally spent from the grind of that tournament, so Heat coach Erik Spoelstra decided to basically not use his starter for most of the preseason.
Dragic didn’t like the idea at first. He knows now that it was the right move.
"I feel like my head is clearing," Dragic said Wednesday before sitting out Miami’s home preseason game against the Washington Wizards. "I’m OK. Physically, I feel great. Mentally, I’m hungry again for basketball. That’s what we want to achieve and that’s the feeling we want for that first game."
Dragic hasn’t officially been ruled out for Miami’s preseason finale in Kansas City on Friday against Philadelphia, but he isn’t likely to play.
"The big key is I want him feeling fresh, peaking by Game 1," Spoelstra said. "He’s in great shape, great spirits and we’ll just keep moving forward."
Dragic, Miami’s leading scorer last season at just over 20 points per game, expects to be full-go when Miami’s regular season starts Wednesday in Orlando. He said Spoelstra recognized how much the European title run — the emotional toll if nothing else — took out of him.
"I always want to practice and play," Dragic said. "But sometimes your body or your head doesn’t allow you to do that. He’s good at reading players. He knows what you need. Maybe he saw something that probably was not hard to see. So I crashed a little bit, came back and now it’s on to a new goal here in Miami."
A look at Wednesday’s preseason games:
CELTICS 108, HORNETS 100
Kyrie Irving had 16 points and 10 assists, Al Horford added 15 points and eight rebounds and Boston wrapped up an unbeaten preseason.
Rookie Malik Monk scored 21 points to lead the Hornets, shooting 4 for 9 from 3-point range. Dwight Howard had 12 points and six rebounds in his first home game.
CELTICS: Jaylen Brown showed he can defend multiple positions, blocking point guard Kemba Walker and forward Marvin Williams on back-to-back possessions. … Gordon Hayward had 13 points.
HORNETS: Michael Carter-Williams (knee) will not be ready for the regular season opener, coach Steve Clifford said. Nic Batum (elbow), Jeremy Lamb (groin) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (personal) did not play. Rookie Dwayne Bacon went 4 for 4 on 3-pointers, accounting for all 12 of his points.
UP NEXT: Boston (4-0) opens the regular season against Cleveland on Tuesday. Charlotte (1-3) hosts Dallas on Friday.
HEAT 117, WIZARDS 115
Jordan Mickey’s 3-pointer with 1.3 seconds left gave Miami the win.
Bam Adebayo scored 15 points, Tyler Johnson scored 14 and Josh Richardson had 13 for the Heat.
Jason Smith scored 20 points on 7 for 8 shooting, and John Wall finished with 16 points and eight assists for Washington. Kelly Oubre Jr. had a strong game, with 10 points and 14 rebounds.
WIZARDS: Bradley Beal scored 15, Mike Scott had 13 and Otto Porter Jr. scored 11 for Washington, which led by as many as 13 and never trailed by more than three.
HEAT: Hassan Whiteside and Dion Waiters also got the night off to rest. … Mickey’s 3-pointer was the third lead change in the final 36 seconds. … The Heat had 78 points off the bench.
UP NEXT: Washington (3-1) visits New York on Friday. Miami (3-2) plays Philadelphia in Kansas City, Missouri on Friday.
76ERS 133, NETS 114
Dario Saric scored 26 points and Joel Embiid, playing for the first time since agreeing to his $148 million extension, added 22 as Philadelphia got its first win of the preseason.
D’Angelo Russell scored 24 for Brooklyn in its preseason finale.
76ERS: J.J. Redick had 18 points for Philadelphia, which held a 52-37 rebounding edge. … No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz didn’t play.
NETS: Caris Levert scored 16 and Jeremy Lin added 14 for the Nets, who led by 10 early — then got outscored by 35 points over the rest of the half, and eventually trailed by 36.
UP NEXT: Philadelphia (1-3) meets Miami in Kansas City, Missouri on Friday. Brooklyn (3-1) opens the regular season Oct. 18 at Indiana.
ROCKETS 101, GRIZZLIES 89
James Harden shot only 2 for 13, missing all eight of his 3-point tries, but scored 18 points to lead Houston.
Trevor Ariza had 16 and Clint Capela added 15 for Houston. Andrew Harrison led Memphis with 17 points.
ROCKETS: Chris Paul returned from right shoulder soreness, and shot 3 for 12. … The Rockets were 14 of 45 from 3-point range, with Eric Gordon alone going 2 for 12.
GRIZZLIES: Mario Chalmers and Marc Gasol each scored 12 points. … Mike Conley, on his 30th birthday, had eight points on 3-for-10 shooting.
UP NEXT: Houston (4-0) hosts San Antonio on Friday. Memphis (2-2) hosts New Orleans on Friday.
TRAIL BLAZERS 113, SUNS 104
Portland’s Caleb Swanigan and Phoenix’s Alex Len were ejected after scuffling under the basket with 9:33 remaining. They got tangled while getting in rebound position, and Len then gave Swanigan a shove in the back before they were separated.
Meyers Leonard made his first five 3-point tries and finished with 17 points for Portland. Josh Jackson had 22 and Mike James added 19 for Phoenix.
TRAIL BLAZERS: Starting guards CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard combined for 23 points on 9 for 28 shooting. … Ed Davis grabbed 12 rebounds in 17 minutes.
SUNS: Marquese Chriss had 13 points and 12 rebounds. … Eric Bledsoe missed all eight of his shots. … Phoenix had 40 points in the second and third quarters combined, then scored 43 in the fourth.
UP NEXT: Portland (4-1) hosts Maccabi Haifa on Friday. Phoenix (1-3) hosts the Brisbane Bullets on Friday.