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Heat’s Nikola Jovic on first-ever basketball ejection: ‘My parents were not happy’

OKLAHOMA CITY — When you are a 20-year-old trying to find your way in the NBA, the pressures can be overwhelming, particularly after being ejected at a crucial stage of a game in the midst of the playoff race.

But for Nikola Jovic, pressure arrived in a different form after Tuesday night’s ejection against the Detroit Pistons.

“My parents,” the second-year Miami Heat forward said, “were not happy.”

Drawing a pair of technical fouls for first tossing the ball against the stanchion in disappointment in the first quarter and then becoming overly demonstrative arguing a foul call in the third, Jovic found himself oddly alone that night in the Heat locker room at Kaseya Center.

“Never happened before,” Jovic said of his first-ever ejection. “That was the first.”

Arguably the most mild-mannered Heat player off the court, Jovic’s growth into NBA starter has now included two career suspensions and his first ejection.

Fluent in both English and Serbian, Jovic said he may change his tongue when angered.

“I might start using my other language, ” he said with a smile, with the Heat moving on from Thursday night’s loss in Dallas to Friday night’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Paycom Center.

But that doesn’t mean he plans on a repeat.

He said he understood the tossing of the ball to the stanchion was an automatic technical foul, but thought the ruling on the second technical might have been quick-triggered.

“I just threw my hands up,” he said. “I didn’t say anything crazy.”

But the anger was real, having been tossed to the court moments earlier by burly Pistons forward Isaiah Stewart.

“The second before he threw me on the ground,” Jovic said.

And, with that, sent off.

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“I’m not going to say I’m surprised, because those are the rules,” he said. “The rules are what they are. But I thought the call might have been soft. I didn’t do that much to actually get thrown out.”

A year ago, the loss of Jovic might have been met with a shrug. But now playing as a starter, he has become a valued contributor, particularly with backup center Kevin Love sidelined with a heel issue.

“It won’t happen again,” Jovic said.

Smith’s story

Although waived Wednesday by the Heat in order to sign Patty Mills off the buyout market, guard Dru Smith could be back with the Heat as soon as this summer.

Because he was waived, Smith is eligible to be re-signed by the Heat at any time. Had he been dealt for salary-cap relief at the Feb. 8 NBA trading deadline, the Heat could not have re-signed him for a calendar year unless he was first dealt to another team.

Coach Erik Spoelstra said it was a tough move, with Smith sidelined for the season by December surgery that resulted from his November knee injury in a road victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“That’s sometimes the tough part of the business,” Spoelstra said. “But we’ll still be able to help him with his rehab and that’s the most important thing. He just needs to get healthy, get strong again, get his body ready for this summer hopefully to be able to get back to basketball activities and resume this.”

Spoelstra said Smith has the mettle for such a moment.

“He’s built for this adversity,” Spoelstra said of the guard who went undrafted out of Missouri in 2021. “That’s been his path to have it a little bit different than a lottery pick. He has that kind of fortitude. He’s already made great progress. He’s ahead of schedule.

“I don’t want to put a timeline on it because the body will let you know. But I think he’ll have a full recovery and be better for it somehow.”

Richardson reality

In the wake of Josh Richardson undergoing his 90-minute labrum surgery Wednesday to repair right shoulder instability, Spoelstra spoke of empathy and the expectation of the 30-year-old guard making a full recovery.

“It’s one of those tough things,” Spoelstra said. “He was playing really well. You could see for those three weeks to a month right before he was injured, how he was able to fit in and really help our group with his versatility. His offense was really coming around. But I think more importantly, his defense was really starting to shape up once he got his legs under him.

“So it’s a shame. But some of these things happen. You can’t control it. He had really a great spirit going into it, and the surgery went really well. We’ll just look forward to rehabbing him and getting him ready for next year.”

Richardson has a $3.1 million player option to return to the Heat next season.