Heat’s Dedmon out of team, into NBA COVID protocols; Jovic sent to D-League

It was part of the equation the Miami Heat were able to avoid in previous seasons until Friday, when backup center Dwayne Dedmon was listed for Friday night’s game against the Denver Nuggets due to NBA health and safety protocols.

Unlike previous illnesses that have recently sidelined NBA players including Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, this has not been flagged as a “non-COVID illness.”

As with last season, Dedmon didn’t play in five games with the help of the Heat after a previous foot injury kept him out of the first three games.

NBA players who meet the latest vaccination protocols do not need to be tested. However, those showing symptoms of COVID will need to be tested.

Due to plantar fasciitis in his left foot, Dedmon is expected to miss the entire five games against the Utah Jazz on Saturday night, as well as next week’s games against the Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns.

Another roster update came on Friday, when the Heat sent first-round pick Nikola Jovic to their G League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce.

The move means there will be no Friday night match between Nikola Jovic and Nikola Jokic, a member of Serbia’s national program. The 19-year-old Jovic has yet to meet with two-time defending NBA Most Valuable Player champion Jokic, the Nuggets center enjoying another dominant season.

In another tweak to the team’s injury report, forward Caleb Martin, who was on the injury report with a sprained ankle, was also listed with a strained quadriceps muscle.

Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said denying Jokic his third straight MVP award could pose a challenge to media voters.

“He’s just playing unbelievable basketball,” Spoelstra said. “It’s year after year. That’s what great guys do. Can he get better? I don’t know. He’s been great the last two years.” . . .

Spoelstra also spoke about his team’s improved defensive performance during morning shootaround at Ball Arena.

“It’s more effort,” he said. “There were more guys out there emptying the tank. There were a couple of times in the last few games where the ball was on the field and they were first up. We put our bodies in front of the drive and tried to take the hit.

“Whether we get the call or not, it’s our defense. There has to be some level of physicality and strength every night.” . . .

Spoelstra noted that altitude can’t be used as an excuse for the start of the trip to Denver and Salt Lake City, given the altitude at which his team’s Dec. 17 victory over the San Antonio Spurs was at. “We’re not even going to let that be an excuse,” he said. “We were able to do that in Mexico City.” . . .

As for the challenges of the trip, Spoelstra reiterated Friday, “That’s what we need right now to figure out where we are.”

Since the Heat’s Jan. 10 home game against the Oklahoma City Thunder was nationally broadcast on TNT, Bally Sports Sun will no longer be showing it.

The change means three of the four Heat games will now receive national coverage, with ESPN showing Wednesday night at the Lakers and Dec. 6 at the Suns on ESPN, in addition to Bally Sports Sun.