Heat forward Rodney McGruder needs surgery on leg

Chicago Bulls forward Jimmy Butler, left, works against Miami Heat guard Rodney McGruder during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Chicago, Friday, Jan. 27, 2017. (David Banks/AP)

MIAMI — Rodney McGruder, who started at small forward for the Miami Heat last season and was a strong candidate to open this season in the same role, is scheduled for have surgery next week to repair a stress fracture in his left leg.

McGruder played in a team-high 78 games last season for Miami, starting 65 of them. The surgery would likely keep him sidelined at least three months, though the timetable for a return will be known until after surgery. A team spokesman said McGruder is still being evaluated and that any talk of how long McGruder will be out is premature.

McGruder’s work ethic has been raved about by teammates and coaches since he got to Miami.

"You root for players all the time and guys like Rodney, you have to root for them because of the kind of person he is, the kind of player, his effort, all-in, how coachable he is," Heat President Pat Riley said.

McGruder averaged 6.4 points per game last season, narrowly missing getting voted onto the All-Rookie team.

With McGruder out, it could open a path for Josh Richardson or Justise Winslow to open as Miami’s starting small forward.

McGruder’s injury situation was first reported by The Vertical.

Also Friday, the Heat announced that point guard Goran Dragic’s preseason is over. Dragic was excused from Miami’s trip to Kansas City for a Friday preseason finale against Philadelphia because his wife and children — who have been in his native Slovenia for the off-season — were scheduled to arrive in Miami on Thursday.

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