All-star Dragic, Heat go up against 76ers' rising stars
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Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic, named an All-Star for the first time on Thursday, leads his team against the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night.
The Sixers feature rookie Ben Simmons, who had hoped to make the Feb. 18 NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles. He will instead play in the Rising Stars Challenge (as will teammates Joel Embiid and Dario Saric), and on Thursday he was named Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for January.
Dragic, a 31-year-old guard in his 10th season, was named an injury replacement for Cleveland Cavaliers center/forward Kevin Love, who broke a hand on Tuesday.
According to the Miami Herald, Dragic was informed by Heat coach Erik Spoelstra about the honor before practice. And Spoelstra, named Eastern Conference Coach of the Month after leading the Heat to a 10-5 record in January, made certain to do so in front of the entire team so the other players could share in the moment.
"It's one of the very few times in life where you can surprise somebody," Spoelstra told the Herald. "Now with social media, things get out there so quickly. You could see the shock on his face. It's cool to see a group enjoy someone else's success."
Dragic, the first Slovenian to make an All-Star team, told the Herald that the moment was "really nice" and that "all the credit" goes to his teammates. He is averaging 17 points and 4.8 assists this season to lead the Heat (29-22).
Miami, fourth in the East, fell 91-89 at Cleveland on Wednesday night, when forward James Johnson was stymied on a drive to the rim in the closing seconds by LeBron James.
The Sixers (24-24) lost their third straight game that night, falling 116-108 to the Brooklyn Nets despite getting 29 points and 14 rebounds from Embiid and 24 points from Simmons.
Philadelphia has had an alarming habit of losing to sub-.500 teams like the Nets this season, having also frittered away two games to the Sacramento Kings, and one each to the Phoenix Suns, Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Lakers.
"Maybe we (are) too cocky," Embiid told Philly.com. "We go into the game thinking that it's going to be easy."
Veteran guard J.J. Redick scored 20 points Wednesday night after missing the previous seven games with a leg injury. Rookie guard Markelle Fultz remains out, however.
Fultz, the top overall pick in last summer's draft, has missed all but four games this season with a shoulder injury. While he has ramped up his workouts in recent weeks, no timetable has been issued for his return.
Another guard, Jerryd Bayless, dressed Wednesday after missing the previous six games with a sore left wrist. He did not play against the Nets, however, something that was "unfortunate," he told Philly.com.
Miami forward Udonis Haslem will miss Friday's game for personal reasons, and guard Dion Waiters underwent season-ending ankle surgery in December.
Guard Rodney McGruder is still working his way back after undergoing surgery in October to repair a stress fracture in his left leg, and forward Okaro White is out with a foot injury.
Updated February 1, 2018