James Johnson may be the latest addition to the Heat’s long list of injured players, writes Ira Winderman of The-Sun Sentinel. Johnson will have an MRI today to determine the extent of a lower-leg issue that forced him to leave Saturday’s game. He is in the midst of another productive season, averaging 10.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.1 assists in 28 games, and an extended absence would be a significant blow to a team already reeling from injuries.
Miami is without center Hassan Whiteside, who has missed two weeks with a bone bruise on his left knee and won’t join the team for a two-game road trip, along with Justise Winslow [strained knee], Okaro White [foot surgery] and Rodney McGruder [leg surgery]. The injuries have created more playing time for rookie Bam Adebayo and free agent additions Kelly Olynyk and Jordan Mickey.
“I’ve spent a lot of time with J.J. He’s talked to me a lot,” Mickey said. “He’s always said, ‘Eventually your number will get called.’ I’m not happy in this particular position [with Johnson out], but I’ll be ready, Coach needs me and I’m already ready.”
There’s more from the Southeast Division:
- Injuries are also creating an opportunity for Magic small forward Mario Hezonja, notes Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel. With Jonathan Isaac, Aaron Gordon and Arron Afflalo all sidelined, Hezonja has started the past three games with uneven results, Robbins notes. The fifth player taken in the 2015 draft, Hezonja may be looking at his last chance to prove himself before unrestricted free agency next summer. Orlando declined to pick up his fourth-year option in October. “You’ve just got to find your own rhythm but still be in the system,” Hezonja said. “If I go out [and try to excel] individually, I’m going to look good, but we’re going to lose. We’re not going to win a lot of games like that. Everybody has to step up like that, has to have that mindset.”
- The Magic are enjoying the benefits of having a G League affiliate close to home, relays John Denton of NBA.com. The organization moved its affiliate from Erie, Pa., to Lakeland, Fla., over the summer, which is paying off with the recent rash of injuries. Jamel Artis and Adreian Payne were able to attend practice with the Magic Tuesday morning, even though they had a G League game that night, then were available for Wednesday’s NBA contest.
- Nicolas Batum offered a reminder of why the Hornets gave him a five-year, $120MM contract with with a season-high 23-point performance Saturday, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. For most of this season, Batum has been deferring to other players on offense after returning from a torn ligament in his left elbow that he suffered in the preseason. “I was trying to adjust myself to the other guys way too much,” he said, “when sometimes I have to let them adjust to me.”