GORAN Dragic said his coach Erik Spoelstra deserves the Coach of the Year award for turning around a Miami Heat side that looked doomed to miss the NBA playoffs in their first season without Dwyane Wade.
“Coach Spo is an unbelievable coach,” said Dragic in an interview with Filipino reporters via Cisco teleconference. “If I can say something, I would like him to win the Coach of the Year. He deserves that.”
The Heat are in the thick of the race for the playoffs after moving up into a tie for the seventh best record in the Eastern Conference with the Milwaukee Bucks at 34-35 (win-loss).
That was almost unthinkable early in the season after the Heat went 11-30 in a season that started with Wade's move to Chicago and the painful decision to drop the ailing Chris Bosh from their lineup.
Dragic said the Heat's surprising success this season is because of Spoelstra, whose no-nonsense attitude has rubbed off on a team that also had to deal with injuries to key players.
The Fil-American coach won championships with Miami behind a star-studded team led by LeBron James and Wade; now Spoelstra is proving he knows how to win with less-talented lineups.
“He never uses excuses. We had a lot of injuries at the beginning of the season. But he always puts us in the right position. The main thing with him is keep positive, keep working hard, and things will turn around," Dragic said.
“We lost D-Wade, CB was hurt, a lot of new teammates. You need to start all over again and create that chemistry,” added the Heat's Slovenian starting guard.
Dragic said the key was Spoelstra developing chemistry in the team.
Dragic has been one of the beneficiaries of the splendid team play, averaging 20.3 points and six assists - both team highs this season.
“We are finally developing that chemistry that we need. Beginning of the season, it was tough. We had a lot of injuries and finally get bodies back and we are playing as a team. We are playing amazing right now.”
“Off the court, when we are away from our home in different cities, we hang out together and go to the movies. That’s how you get closer with your teammates.
"I really feel it’s an important thing to get to know the guy who is next to you not just as a player but as a person.”