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Bulls waive Goran Dragic, opening door for possible Heat reunion; Lowry remains out

The door has swung open for a possible Miami Heat reunion with guard Goran Dragic.

Ahead of Wednesday’s NBA deadline for playoff eligibility for waived players, the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday made such a move with the former Heat floor leader. The timing now leaves Dragic available for another team’s playoff roster.

Dragic made a similar move a year ago ahead of the playoff-eligibility deadline, when he went from the Toronto Raptors to the Brooklyn Nets.

The Heat dealt Dragic and power forward Precious Achiuwa to the Raptors in the 2021 offseason in the sign-and-trade transaction that brought veteran point guard Kyle Lowry to the Heat. Dragic then granted Lowry permission to wear his No. 7.

The Bulls’ move with Dragic comes at a juncture when Lowry has been sidelined for a month with knee pain, leaving Gabe Vincent as the only available point guard on the Heat roster.

While the Heat have been cautious to remain below the NBA’s punitive luxury tax, the team does have enough money under the salary cap to add Dragic, 36.

What the Heat lack is an available roster spot, at the NBA maximum of 15 players under standard contract and two on two-way contracts.

That would require waiving a player from the current roster to add Dragic.

Among the options in that regard could be forward Haywood Highsmith, who has seen his role evaporate as the Heat have returned to health, or second-year center Omer Yurtseven, who has yet to play this season following November ankle surgery. The Heat recently bolstered their power rotation ahead of the buyout market with the additions of Kevin Love and Cody Zeller, who has thrived at center in his first three games with the team. Yurtseven is scheduled to be a restricted free agent in the offseason.

Another option would be to agree with a parting of 42-year-old captain Udonis Haslem, who has barely played this season, but that is a highly unlikely outcome for a franchise icon.

Because he was waived by March 1, Dragic is eligible to sign with any team by the April 9 final day of the regular season to be playoff eligible.

Dragic, 6 foot 3, appeared in 51 games for the Bulls, averaging 6.4 points, 1.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 15.4 minutes per game. He signed a one-year contract at the veteran minimum with the Bulls on Aug. 2.

The Bulls’ move was anticipated in the wake of the team recently adding former Heat draft choice Patrick Beverley off the buyout market. Dragic has not played since Feb. 13, dealing with soreness in his left knee.

Dragic joined the Heat in a Feb. 2019 trade with the Phoenix Suns that sent out Norris Cole, among others. He averaged 16.2 points in his 6 1/2 seasons with the Heat, appearing in 40 playoff games with the franchise. His lone All-Star berth came with the Heat in 2018.

Other potential landing spots for Dragic could be the Milwaukee Bucks, who previously had expressed interest, and the Dallas Mavericks, where Slovenian compatriot Luka Doncic plays.

Against the Dragic backdrop, Lowry again is listed as out for Wednesday night’s rematch against the 76ers at Miami-Dade Arena, after the Heat defeated the 76ers on Monday night in Philadelphia.

In a twist on the team’s injury report, the Heat are listing rookie big man Nikola Jovic (back) and Yurtseven (ankle) on G League assignment, with two-way forward Jamal Cain already on G League assignment.

The only others on the Heat injury report for Wednesday night are Max Strus, who is listed as questionable due to soreness in his right ankle, and Love, who is listed as probable with a right-knee hyperextension.

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Source: Berkshire mont

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