James Johnson

Heat Rumors: Whiteside, Dragic, Winslow

While the Heat will explore trade scenarios involving Hassan Whiteside this offseason, a source in touch with the club’s front office said the odds of a deal are “considered 50-50 at best,” and are perhaps lower than that, writes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. As such, Miami is preparing for the possibility of bringing back Whiteside next season.

According to Jackson, the Heat are committed to ensuring that Whiteside and head coach Erik Spoelstra are on the same page in the vent that no trade can be made. That process has already gotten underway, Jackson says, though he acknowledges that Whiteside, Spolestra, and team president Pat Riley haven’t met for a “collective summit” yet.

For his part, Whiteside hasn’t requested a trade and is open to making things work in Miami, one NBA friend of Whiteside tells Jackson. Per the Herald’s report, the veteran center does want a larger role, but any disagreement with Spoelstra is professional rather than personal.

Here’s more on the Heat from Jackson:

  • Jackson offers up one hypothetical trade scenario involving Whiteside and the Bucks, suggesting that the inclusion of John Henson and Matthew Dellavedova could make it work. However, he cautions that there are no indications the two teams have discussed such a deal or that they’d both be interested — the Heat don’t want to move Whiteside simply for bad contracts.
  • While no one on the Heat’s roster is untouchable, the team has “no appetite” to move Goran Dragic, says Jackson. Miami would also like to hang onto Justise Winslow, but recognizes that he may need to be included in a potential package for a high-end player.
  • Which “high-end” player might the Heat make a run at this summer? Jackson names Kawhi Leonard, DeMarcus Cousins, and even DeMar DeRozan as possibilities.
  • Briefly circling back to the 2017 free agent period, Jackson writes that the Heat committed four years and $60MM to James Johnson due to concerns that the Nuggets or Jazz would swoop in to sign him.

James Johnson Underwent Sports Hernia Surgery

Heat forward James Johnson underwent surgery for a sports hernia, league sources tell Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). According to Charania, Johnson had the procedure sometime recently, following Miami’s elimination from the playoffs.

Johnson, 31, averaged 10.8 PPG, 4.9 RPG, and 3.8 APG with a .503 FG% for the Heat in 2017/18. He started 41 of the 73 games he played for the club this season, and was a crucial part of Miami’s rotation.

Having signed a long-term contract with the Heat during the summer of 2017, Johnson remains under contract with the franchise for two more guaranteed years, with a player option for 2020/21. Assuming he plays out his full deal, he’ll earn about $46MM over the next three seasons.

While the Heat have yet to issue a statement on Johnson’s postseason surgery, the procedure seems unlikely to affect his ability for the 2018/19 season. I’d expect him to be good to go when training camps get underway in September.

Southeast Notes: Larranaga, Anthony, Whiteside, Weltman

Celtics assistant Jay Larranaga is on the Hawks’ radar in their search for a head coach, Sam Amico of Amico Hoops reports. Larranaga has been an assistant with the Celtics since 2012 after being a head coach in the G League. The son of college coach Jim Larranaga has also coached in Ireland. The younger Larranaga is also on the long list of candidates for the Knicks’ coaching vacancy, Amico adds.

In other developments around the Southeast Division:

  • Trading for disgruntled Thunder forward Carmelo Anthony wouldn’t make any sense for the Heat, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel argues. Miami already has a better defensive power forward in James Johnson and Anthony has already indicated he doesn’t want to come off the bench, Winderman continues. Anthony’s expiring contract wouldn’t give the Heat notable cap relief in 2019 because of the salary commitments they already have, Winderman adds.
  • Those salary commitments are also why it’s unlikely the Heat will deal Hassan Whiteside for an expiring contract or two, Winderman writes in a separate blog. In essence, they’d simply be giving away their center for nothing if they chose that route, Winderman continues. Whiteside has two years and $52.5MM remaining on his $98MM deal. The Bucks, Trail Blazers and Mavericks are among the potential landing spots for Whiteside if a trade goes through, according to Bryan Kalbrosky of Hoops Hype.
  • Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman will have final say in the head coaching hire, Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel reports. Orlando is searching for a coach after firing Frank Vogel. “If you’re asking do I have autonomy to do this job, I can tell you simply that I would not have come here had I not,” Weltman told Robbins.
  • The Hornets’ coaching search could get complicated if they chose to pursue former Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer notes. Reuniting Budenholzer with center Dwight Howard wouldn’t be a good idea, given how their relationship deteriorated in Atlanta, Bonnell adds.

Southeast Notes: Spoelstra, Prince, Gordon/Isaac, Johnson

Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra is excited about the prospect of getting the team’s two-way players, Derrick Jones Jr. and Derrick Walton, back with the team this weekend, reports Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel.

With the G League regular season concluding tomorrow, the 45-day restriction upon two-way players is lifted, freeing them to return to the NBA for the remainder of the regular season. Jones Jr. is back with the Heat for tonight’s game against Oklahoma City, with Walton joining the team before Sunday’s game in Indiana. As for the two-way system itself, Spoelstra is a fan, even though he thinks a few issues need ironing out.

“The system is a little bit clumsy, but I’m sure we’ll iron that all out in years to come. I’m a big fan of the two-way contract. I think it’s good for teams, it’s good for the player. We’ve seen the benefits of developing our guys with us (the Heat), but also getting those guys a lot of game reps in our culture, in Sioux Falls.”

Jones Jr., 21, is averaging 17.1 points and 7.4 rebounds in 29.1 minutes per game this season for the Sioux Falls Skyforce, the Heat’s G League affiliate, while also starting eight games for the Heat during the team’s struggle through injuries. Asked whether his development is of importance to the team, Spoelstra said of course:

“Absolutely. We always envision where a player can go. We do that with an open mind and a commitment to our player development. He’s improved this year with us and that’s worth noting, because he’s committed to our (the Heat’s) process. I think he has to break into this program as a defensive-minded player. That’s really where his potential is. It’s been very intentional that we try to get him on the best wing opponent every night and really embrace that challenge regardless of how many minutes he plays and what his offensive responsibility is. He has to guard, he has to be able to impact on that side of the floor. And that got better. It still has a long ways to go, but he’s starting to understand where he can break through.”

As we’ve noted generally before, neither Jones Jr. nor Walton are playoff-eligible for the Heat unless signed to a standard contract before the final game of the regular season. This is unlikely as Miami already has 15 players on its roster.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Hawks‘ forward Taurean Prince has improved his three-point prowess throughout his career, but no more so than this season, writes Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype, where he is shooting 40.4% from behind the stripe.
  • The Magic are excited to be able to play versatile forwards Aaron Gordon and rookie Jonathan Isaac together for the remainder of this season, writes John Denton of NBA.com.
  • Just in time for the playoffs, James Johnson is finally realizing the level of play the Heat expected when they signed him to a lucrative contract this summer, Winderman adds in another piece.

Serge Ibaka, James Johnson Receive One-Game Suspensions

Raptors big man Serge Ibaka and Heat forward James Johnson have each been hit with one-game suspensions for their roles in an altercation that took place in Tuesday night’s game in Toronto, the NBA announced today. The two veterans exchanged punches midway through the third quarter.

DeMar DeRozan and Goran Dragic were also penalized for getting into it during Tuesday’s game, but they avoided suspensions. DeRozan was fined $25K, while Dragic received a $10K fine.

The Raptors will now be without Ibaka for Thursday night’s showdown with the Cavaliers, a game that Kyle Lowry is also expected to miss due to a bruised tailbone. While Toronto will be short-handed for that game, the team will gain a little more breathing room below the tax threshold with Ibaka losing a game’s worth of salary, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks details in a tweet.

As for Johnson, he’ll miss the Heat’s Wednesday game in Indiana.

Heat Rumors: Winslow, Whiteside, Dragic, Ellington

Although the Heat lack a superstar player, there’s optimism within the organization that the team is capable of winning upwards of 50 games and a playoff round or two. Still, the Heat are aware that they face “major questions” about their ceiling, Zach Lowe writes in his latest piece for ESPN.com. As such, Miami is a team that figures to be active as the trade deadline approaches.

According to Lowe, the Heat – who may be in the tax next season – are projecting optimism that they could trade the lucrative new long-term contracts handed out to the likes of Dion Waiters, James Johnson, and Kelly Olynyk if they need to. However, rival executives are skeptical that all those deals would be easily movable.

Here’s more from Lowe on the Heat’s outlook and trade possibilities:

  • Justise Winslow has been surpassed by Josh Richardson as the Heat’s small forward of the future, while Johnson has emerged as Miami’s top small-ball power forward, according to Lowe, who suggests that Winslow is a potential trade chip for the Heat. Lowe adds that multiple rival execs are calling Winslow the Heat’s version of Jahlil Okafor, though he thinks that’s “a little much.”
  • The Heat’s best and most realistic trade package if they look to make a big splash would likely be Winslow and Hassan Whiteside, says Lowe. Neither player has been a major part of Miami’s best crunch-time lineup as of late, so the club could dangle that duo in search of a star center.
  • The Heat have shown no interest in trading Goran Dragic, per Lowe’s league sources.
  • Waiters’ ankle injury has created some tension in Miami, with Waiters seeking a second opinion after the team put him on a non-surgical rehab program. The two sides hope to get clarity on Waiters’ recovery this week or next, according to Lowe, who notes that the veteran guard “almost feels redundant” on a Heat roster that features several ball-handlers.
  • Long-term luxury tax concerns for the Heat may cost them Wayne Ellington. The veteran sharpshooter is in line for a raise when he becomes an unrestricted free agent in July and Miami likely won’t be able to afford him, prompting Lowe to wonder if the club would consider trading him rather than losing him for nothing.

Injury Notes: Johnson, Curry, Hardaway

James Johnson, who re-signed with the Heat on a four-year, $60MM deal, will be out of the lineup indefinitely because of ankle bursitis, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel writes.

Johnson missed three games earlier this month because of the ailment and tried to play on Saturday against New Orleans. He had to leave the contest before halftime and the Heat are now expected to closely monitor him until he returns to full health.

“My foot wasn’t functional at the time,” Johnson said of leaving the game. “But I think it was way better just not coming back out at halftime than it was when I just had to leave the court, for sure. So I feel improvement. I see improvement on it. So, like I said, just day-to-day treatment as much as I can.”

Here’s more injury notes from around the league:

  • Stephen Curry will remain out until at least Friday and coach Steve Kerr said the point guard needs to go through as many as three more practices before he plays in a game, Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com tweets. Curry went through 4-on-4 drills over the weekend and the team will see how handles more activities before clearing him to return.
  • Tim Hardaway Jr. has been “moving more every day,” Ian Begley of ESPN.com relays on Twitter. Begley adds that the shooting guard has not yet been cleared to run, though the Knicks expect him back with the team at some point next month.
  • Devin Booker has missed the last nine games with a groin injury, but he’ll be back in action for tonight’s contest against the Grizzlies, according to Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic (Twitter feed). The Suns have gone 3-6 with Booker sidelined.

Hassan Whiteside May Return Tonight

Heat center Hassan Whiteside may return tonight after missing nearly a month with a bone bruise in his left knee, according to a tweet from the team. Whiteside participated in this morning’s shootaround, and a decision on his status will be made after warmups.

Whiteside, who suffered the bone bruise in a November 28 game, had been upgraded to questionable on the team’s official injury report. He has missed 13 games, forcing the team to give more minutes at center to Kelly Olynyk and rookie Bam Adebayo.

Whiteside’s presence in the middle has been an important loss for the Heat, although they managed a 7-6 record without him. He provides a reliable double-double and intimidating defense, even though his numbers through 15 games were down slightly from last season at 14.9 points, 12.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks.

A return by Whiteside would help ease the Heat’s injury problems, although Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel reports that forward James Johnson is back on the shelf with ankle bursitis. After missing three games, Johnson made a brief return Saturday before reaggravating the condition.

Heat Notes: Waiters, J. Johnson, Ellington, Walton

Miami’s injury situation worsened Friday night when shooting guard Dion Waiters was forced to leave the game with a left ankle problem. Coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters today that x-rays and an MRI were both negative and it has been diagnosed as a sprain, tweets Manny Navarro of The Miami Herald.

This injury isn’t related to the left ankle issue that caused Waiters to miss the final 13 games last season, Spoelstra adds (Twitter link). Waiters opted not to have surgery over the summer because he was concerned it would impact his value in free agency, notes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald.

There’s more tonight out of Miami:

  • The Heat have some encouraging news on the injury front, as Navarro tweets that James Johnson will return tonight after missing a week with right ankle bursitis. Center Hassan Whiteside has expanded his conditioning and court work after missing 12 games with a bone bruise in his knee (Twitter link). Point guard Goran Dragic will also play tonight after missing three games with a strained elbow ligament, according to Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel (Twitter link).
  • Wayne Ellington had one of his best nights in a Heat uniform Friday, showing the importance of the offseason maneuverings that were necessary for the team to pick up his option, Jackson writes in the same story. Miami couldn’t have afforded Ellington’s $6.3MM option and Kelly Olynyk‘s four-year, $50MM deal without unloading Josh McRoberts‘ salary of a little more than $6MM. McRoberts was shipped to Dallas along with cash and a 2023 second-rounder in exchange for A.J. Hammons, who has yet to play this season. “I’ve learned never to question [GM] Andy Elisburg,” Spoelstra said. “He can make a lot of things happen out of nowhere. When we executed his contract, he was the first guy I texted. I enjoy watching Wayne.”
  • Rookie guard Derrick Walton made an impression on the coaching staff with his performance Friday, Jackson adds. Limited to 45 days in the NBA by his two-way contract, Walton had seven points, five assists and no turnovers in nearly 24 minutes of action. “He’s a heady player, gutsy player,” Spoelstra said. “He’s a gamer. He doesn’t get sick at sea in these kinds of moments. He gets you organized and makes the right plays. … You want your teammates and coaching staff to notice you when you get that opportunity and we did.”

Injury Updates: J. Johnson, Seth Curry, D. Green

After undergoing an MRI on Sunday, Heat forward James Johnson has been diagnosed with right ankle bursitis, the team announced (via Twitter). Johnson, who won’t travel with the Heat during this week’s road trip to Boston and Atlanta, is expected to miss the next seven to 10 days, according to the club. That timetable would put him on track to be out for at least four games, if not more.

The Heat now have five players on the shelf with various injuries, but it seems unlikely that the team will receive a hardship provision to add an extra player to its roster. Justise Winslow appears to be getting close to returning, and Johnson’s injury shouldn’t be a long-term issue. A hardship exception can be granted if four or more players have missed at least three games apiece and will continue to be sidelined for the foreseeable future.

Here are a few more injury notes and updates from across the NBA:

  • Seth Curry still isn’t close to making his 2017/18 season debut for the Mavericks, according to Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. As Sefko relays, head coach Rick Carlisle said this weekend that Curry’s leg injury will continue to sideline him until sometime in the new year. The Mavs guard, who will be a free agent in 2018, has missed the entire season so far with a left tibia stress reaction.
  • How concerned should the Warriors be about Draymond Green‘s lingering shoulder injury? Anthony Slater of The Athletic takes a closer look. The club has held Green out of three of its last four games, and while the big man isn’t complaining, he’s “not happy” either, says head coach Steve Kerr (link via Melissa Rohlin of The Bay Area News Group).
  • Nets point guard Jeremy Lin, who had been rehabbing his knee in Vancouver, was back in New York with the team on Sunday, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Lin won’t get back on the court this season, but a source tells Lewis that the veteran guard could be cleared to run and jump by April.