Management and players for the Phoenix Suns seem to have made clear what they think of Goran Dragic. Now it's the fans' turn.
Dragic plays his first game in Phoenix since his unpleasant departure and will try to help the Miami Heat beat the Suns for an 11th straight time Friday night.
This may be a contentious affair after the first meeting following Dragic's trade to Miami included six technical fouls, three ejections and two altercations. Dragic played through back spasms and committed five fouls in less than 15 minutes but had 21 points in a 115-98 home victory March 2 which the point guard said afterward "means a lot."
That came less than two weeks after Dragic was shipped to Miami in a three-team deal. He had previously asked for a trade, unhappy with the direction of the Suns and getting fewer touches after the addition of Eric Bledsoe.
What further angered Phoenix brass was Dragic telling reporters, "I don't trust them anymore." Team president Lon Babby said the remarks were "unfair and I think unwarranted," and Dragic surely drew his ire again this week by reportedly saying the Suns tinker with their roster too much and are "always changing something."
At least one Phoenix player showed his distaste for Dragic in the last meeting. Markieff Morris was ejected early in the third for a flagrant-2 after shoving Dragic in the back on a fast break, resulting in a hard fall. Shortly thereafter, Heat center Hassan Whiteside and Suns big man Alex Len were tossed after a scuffle under the basket.
Whiteside's 17 points and 10 rebounds in 25 minutes keyed Miami's 10th straight win in the series, a run dating to Nov. 3, 2009, during Dragic's first stint with the Suns. The Heat's seven-game streak in Phoenix since January 2007 pre-dates Dragic's career.
Joining Miami hasn't led to Dragic rediscovering the superior form he displayed in 2013-14 when he made the All-NBA third-team after averaging 20.3 points. He's at 11.9 this season, shooting a career-worst 29.3 percent from 3-point range, and hasn't had 10 assists since March despite averaging 32.4 minutes - second on the team to Chris Bosh.
Bosh's strong play has lifted Miami (21-14) into the Southeast Division lead, and he's averaging 24.7 points in the last 10 games.
The Heat had won three straight and nine of 13 before a 98-90 home loss to New York on Wednesday. Bosh had 28 points but was 1 of 4 from 3-point range and Miami finished 2 of 17, though he was more concerned about the Knicks hitting 55.7 percent from the field - the highest by a Heat opponent this season. The previous three were held below 40.
"We're not good enough to just come in and show up," Bosh said. "We really have to get to our identity, play the way we're supposed to play. You give up 50-plus percent, good things are not gonna happen.
"... We've gotta get stops, that's what it's about. It's not about 3-point shooting."
A season-high 19 3-pointers keyed Phoenix (13-25) halting a nine-game skid Wednesday with a 111-102 win over Charlotte.
It was some much-needed relief for a Suns team which had been mired in its longest losing streak in nearly two years, during which Bledsoe (knee) was lost for the season, Morris was suspended two games for throwing a towel at coach Jeff Hornacek and two assistants were fired.
"Just get a win," said Hornacek, who became the eighth Suns coach to record 100 victories. "It's been a rough stretch for us."