James Johnson

Heat Notes: Conley, Nunn, Dragic

The Mike Conley-to-the-Heat talk is just that at the moment. It’s strictly speculation, according to Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel, though the scribe wonders if there’s a potential deal that makes sense for both Miami and Memphis.

Matching salary would be easy if Hassan Whiteside opts in and the Grizzlies are willing to take back the center as a main pillar of the trade. However, what would Miami have to add as an incentive for Memphis to make the move? The Grizzlies would get out of Conley’s contract, which runs through the 2020/21 season, though the franchise would undoubtedly want more than just cost savings if they deal their long-time point guard.

The Heat are not in a position to trade away their first-rounder this year (No. 13 overall), having given away their 2021 selection in the Goran Dragic deal. The organization could offer Dragic (assuming he opts in) in place of Whiteside, but that kind of deal doesn’t really move the needle for Miami.

Then there are the financial repercussions for Miami in taking back Conley. He’ll collect approximately $32.5MM and $34.5MM in each of the next two seasons (Conley has an ETO on the 2020/21 season, but it would be shocking if he opts out). As it currently stands, the Heat’s first shot at sizeable cap space is prior to the 2020/21 season and trading for Memphis’ point guard would delay that eureka moment by an entire calendar year.

Here’s more from Miami:

  • Kendrick Nunn is guaranteed $50K if he’s on the roster come July 1 and Winderman contends (in the same piece) that Nunn’s future with the Heat could be tied to the team’s draft. If Miami acquires a second-round pick—Minnesota owns their 2019 selection—then Nunn’s spot on the team may be in jeopardy.
  • A source close to Dragic would be “very surprised” if the point guard opts to hit the free agent market this summer, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald relays. Dragic likes playing for the Heat, though the decision could come down to whether his camp gets the sense that a long-term lucrative deal awaits him this offseason.
  • The Heat are operating under the assumption that both Whiteside and Dragic will opt into their respective deals for next season, Winderman writes in a separate piece. Whiteside’s player option for 2019/20 is worth approximately $27.1MM while Dragic’s comes in at roughly $19.2MM.
  • Patience with Dion Waiters and James Johnson was wearing thin during the 2018/19 campaign, Winderman adds in the same article. Both players have had injury woes throughout their respective contract with the Heat, though Winderman writes that it doesn’t mean there isn’t an “avenue for redemption” next season. Each players’ contract runs through the 2020/21 season, though Johnson’s pact contains a player option on that final season.

Pat Riley Speaks On State Of Heat

James Johnson and Dion Waiters would be entering free agency if things had gone differently for the Heat in the summer of 2017, writes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald.

At a press conference today, team president Pat Riley said he would have signed both players for two seasons instead of four if Miami had been able to land free agent targets Kevin Durant or Gordon Hayward. Once Durant picked the Warriors and Hayward signed with the Celtics, Riley agreed to longer contracts with both Johnson and Waiters.

“On July 1, I didn’t want to be left with nobody,” he said. “After five days of Gordon having to make a decision, I didn’t want to lose some players we had. I do know James had a deal [elsewhere if Miami didn’t sign him]. It was my decision. I didn’t want to lose all three of them.”

That decision left the Heat with two more expensive contracts that could help push the team $35MM above the cap next season, assuming Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic both opt in.

“We weren’t thinking of room after we lost Kevin Durant and Hayward,” Riley said. “We were thinking we had that 30-11 team come back [Miami’s record in the second half of the 2016/17 season]. We thought the contracts we gave were long-term contracts. That’s on me. You can put that all on me. We didn’t land Hayward and I didn’t want [to lose] the other two guys.”

Riley covered a wealth of topics during today’s session with the media. Here are a few, courtesy of Jackson and Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald:

  • Even if the Lakers were to make an offer, Riley won’t consider going to L.A. to take over for Magic Johnson. “There’s no doubt that I have a history with that team,” he said. “I have a lot of friends inside the organization. … But I’m not going to be a part of that.”
  • Riley wants coach Erik Spoelstra to find ways to get Whiteside and Bam Adebayo on the court at the same time. Despite being Miami’s highest-paid player, Whiteside averaged just 17 minutes per night over the final 19 games.
  • Riley said Waiters was slowed all season after ankle surgery and was “playing this year on 1 1/2 ankles.” He added that conditioning will be vital for Waiters next season. “I talked to him yesterday,” Riley said. “He knows. He has five months. If he gets his conditioning to world class condition, he can get back [to where he was for 25 excellent games two years ago]. I’m confident he will do it. His career is on the line.”
  • No matter what happens, tanking won’t be part of the Heat’s plans, Riley insists, noting how hard it is to fall into the bottom five in the league.
  • Riley encourages Udonis Haslem to take some time to decide whether he wants to return next season. Haslem has barely played over the past three years, but the Heat are willing to give him a roster spot for the veteran leadership he provides.
  • Duncan Robinson and Yante Maten, who were both signed through 2020/21 in the closing days of the season, may have a future with the team. “I give Duncan and Yante As,” Riley said. “They dominated the [G-League] the way you want them to dominate. That was the best team in the league for a while. We think both of them can develop and you don’t know how far they can go.”
  • Unless they get lucky in the lottery, the Heat will have the 13th pick in the draft, but Riley is optimistic they can find a contributor there. “I am not going to name names, but I’ve seen 30 players that are very good players,” he said. “At 13, I do think we would get something equivalent to who we have on our team right now, Bam, Justise [Winslow], Josh [Richardson] and Derrick Jones Jr.
  • Riley called Dwyane Wade‘s final season “pure love” as the Heat said goodbye to their all-time leading scorer.

Heat Notes: Bosh, Adebayo, Waiters, Johnson, Wade

The Heat are set to retire Chris Bosh‘s jersey on Tuesday during halftime of their match-up against the Magic, celebrating Bosh’s career in Miami and closing the book on a positive note.

Bosh, whose six seasons with the Heat included two NBA championships and four Finals appearances, was forced to end his career early after being diagnosed with blood clots in 2015 and 2016. He wanted to return to the team following the diagnosis, but the chance of greater injury — or worse — was too much to risk for both the Heat and the rest of the league.

Micky [Arison] and Pat [Riley] — and this is one thing I have to get straight with people all the time — we never not talked,” Bosh said, as relayed by Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel. “We communicated through this whole ordeal. And my message was always the same, ‘I want to play the game. I want to explore more options to be able to play.'”

Bosh eventually accepted the reality that his playing days were over, recently confirming his retirement from the NBA. In addition to winning two titles, Bosh was an 11-time All-Star, a dominant force capable of scoring from inside and out. His ability to stretch the floor at the center position helped turn the game into what it is today, with more and more teams testing five-shooter lineups each season.

“You can’t live two lives,” Bosh admitted. “I’m going to parent-teacher conferences with my kids, and there’s these different things to get done throughout the day — and I’m trying to get a workout in. The longer I went without playing games, or having a contract or anything, the more difficult it got, the more fire I lost.”

There’s more today out of Miami:

  • In a separate article for the Sun Sentinel, Ira Winderman ponders whether the expectations for Bam Adebayo should increase. Adebayo has started the last 14 games in place of Hassan Whiteside, who has seen inconsistent playing time off the bench. Miami went 10-4 during that stretch.
  • Dion Waiters and James Johnson are exploding back onto the scene just in time for the Heat, Winderman opines. Johnson (sports hernia) and Waiters (ankle surgery) have mostly been away from the Heat over the last calendar year, but both contributed to the team’s win in Washington on Saturday night. “I feel explosive these last four games, to be honest,” Johnson said. Both players are working to regain their stamina and consistency as the team makes a final push to contend for the playoffs.
  • Add Scott Brooks, Jeff Green and Tomas Satoransky to the long list of NBA figures who believe Dwyane Wade shouldn’t retire after the season. “The NBA needs to just fine the Miami Heat for allowing him to retire,” Brooks said, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. “They should not allow him to retire. He’s too good to retire. I hope he changes his mind.” Wade has heard this frequently since announcing his decision to retire, but is adamant that he won’t reverse course. His final regular-season game is scheduled for Wednesday, April 10 against the Nets at Barclays Center.

Pat Riley Talks 2020, Playoff Race, Draft Picks

Assuming Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic exercise their player options for next season, the Heat won’t be in position to open up cap room this summer. The club would have over $129MM in guaranteed money on its books for 2019/20 in that scenario, well above the projected $109MM cap.

However, with the contracts for Whiteside and Dragic set to expire in 2020, Heat president Pat Riley believes his team can be a major player during free agency that offseason. Riley said as much in an interview with Heat reporter Jason Jackson (video link), as Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel relays.

“In 2020, we’ll have a lot of room,” Riley said. “We’ll also have the possibility to have enough room to go after two max contracts, and we’re going to do that. So we’re planning that 2020 will be the room year.”

The NBA’s latest salary cap projection calls for a $118MM cap for 2020/21. Currently, the Heat project to have about $71.6MM on their books for that season if James Johnson and Kelly Olynyk pick up ’20/21 player options. So Riley’s suggestion that the team will have two max slots may hinge on one or both of those players opting out.

While Riley and the Heat are eyeing that 2020 offseason as their next opportunity to make a major splash in free agency, it sounds like he’s not ruling out the possibility of pursuing upgrades this coming summer, when the club will have a mid-level exception available.

“We’re chasing a playoff spot and we’re young, and then we’re going to be chasing some players that could come in,” Riley said, per Winderman. “If we could get one or two players to come in with this group, this young group, then I think the sky’s the limit for this team in the next couple of years.”

Here’s more from Riley on the Heat, via Winderman:

  • If they continue to slump, the Heat – who currently rank 10th in our reverse standings – would be in position to snag a pretty favorable draft pick. However, Riley wants to see the squad continue pushing for one of the final playoff spots in the East. “It’s absolutely essential that they grow with experience, but not only experience with the playing time, but they get to the playoffs,” Riley said. “… I don’t care if you’re fighting for spot number eight or seven or five or three or the top spot or you’re fighting for a championship. You’ve got to be chasing something that’s positive.”
  • While Riley sounds far more interested in earning the No. 8 seed than in landing a top-10 pick in the draft, he dismissed the idea that he doesn’t value draft picks: “People think I don’t believe in draft picks. They’re so wrong. … Draft picks are very important to us.”
  • Riley suggests that Justise Winslow, Bam Adebayo, and Josh Richardson are the key members of the Heat’s young core going forward. However, the club president also mentioned Derrick Jones Jr., and noted that players like Dion Waiters (25), Olynyk (27), and Whiteside (28) are still fairly young.

Heat Notes: J. Johnson, Olynyk, Jones, Ellington

James Johnson and Kelly Olynyk can expect more playing time in the wake of a knee injury that will keep Derrick Jones Jr. out of action for at least six weeks, according to Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. Jones has been diagnosed with two right knee bone bruises and won’t be re-evaluated until mid-March.

“JJ will probably play a little more now,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I think he’s ready for that because of his conditioning level and rhythm. The pairing with KO and Bam [Adebayo], we’ll get back to that as well.”

Johnson and Olynyk have seen a reduction in minutes this season as Jones moved into a larger role. They are both signed through next season and have player options for 2020/21 — more than $16MM for Johnson and nearly $13.6MM for Olynyk.

There’s more from Miami, all courtesy of Jackson:

  • The silver lining to Jones’ injury is that he won’t need surgery, which Heat officials were concerned about. “It’s the best-case scenario – no surgery,” Spoelstra said. “Considering everything, it could’ve been a lot worse, and we really do think that a lot of the training he’s been doing behind the scenes, strength training with his legs – considerably stronger than he was in the past.” The 21-year-old has been a pleasant surprise in his first full season with the Heat, earning a spot in a crowded wing rotation and averaging 7.4 points per game. He has a non-guaranteed contract for next season.
  • Little-used Wayne Ellington responded with a 19-point performance when he got a chance to play in Sunday’s win over the Knicks. Spoelstra won’t commit to regular minutes for the veteran shooter, who remains a candidate to be traded to help the Heat get below the luxury tax line. Ellington and his agent, Mark Bartelstein, haven’t discussed a possible buyout if no deal can be reached, but Jackson states that several contending teams would be interested in adding Ellington if that happens.
  • A preseason plan to use Hassan Whiteside and Adebayo on the court at the same time has fallen through, with them playing just 13 minutes together so far. Adebayo’s limited shooting range has made the pairing difficult.

Heat Notes: Johnson, McGruder, Waiters, Johnson

The Heat have had to use countless different lineup combinations throughout the season as players have come and gone due to injuries, but recently it has been Tyler Johnson that has become a key staple in the starting lineup.

As Ira Winderman writes for The Sun-Sentinal, Johnson has provided an energetic approach that has made him a perfect fit for the starting lineup, especially as Erik Spoelstra continues to look for ways to jumpstart his team.

The Heat have made several significant changes in the wake of Goran Dragic‘s injury, most notably converting Justise Winslow to being the team’s primary ball-handler and creator.

There’s more from the Heat:

Heat Notes: Bosh, Wade, Trade Candidates, Butler

Chris Bosh hasn’t officially announced his retirement, but Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald writes that he appears to be settling into life after basketball, which includes a connection to the Heat. In addition to being at courtside for the team’s past three home games, Bosh is doing some behind-the-scenes work, offering advice to team president Pat Riley and talking to players in the locker room.

It’s a significant step considering the terms under which Bosh left the organization. He had hoped to resume his playing career after being diagnosed with blood clots, but couldn’t get medical clearance from the team. He failed a physical prior to the 2016/17 season and was waived after that season ended. The Heat are paying him $26.8MM this year, although that figure doesn’t count against their salary cap.

“Chris was going through a lot,” Dwyane Wade said. “He was somebody who was one of the best players in the world, and he had a diagnosis that comes that no one is familiar with, really. It’s just a tough situation. You got a player who was 32 at the time, something like that, and the way the game is going, can play for a long time. It’s just unfortunate. So yeah, of course it’s going to take a lot of hardship to get out of that situation and get to where everybody is now. But the bigger picture, he needs to and should be a part of this organization. I’m glad to see him around.”
There’s more news from Miami:
  • The first returns in the All-Star voting show how much love there is around the league for Wade, notes Candace Buckner of The Washington Post. Despite being in a reserve role in his final NBA season, Wade ranked second among Eastern Conference guards with more than 409K votes. “I just appreciate and am humbled by people taking the time out to want to see my old self in an All-Star Game, so it’s cool,” Wade said. “… I know a lot of people are saying, ‘We need to take the fans votes away,’ but they’re the ones who want to see who they want to see.”
  • The Heat will have 13 players worthy of being in the rotation once Goran Dragic returns from injury and could look at the trade deadline as a chance to thin out their roster, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. Wayne Ellington has already fallen far out of the rotation and more players could join him with Dragic’s projected return around the All-Star break. Winderman sees James Johnson, Dion Waiters and Kelly Olynyk as trade candidates, with Ellington included as a throw-in.
  • The latest controversy over Jimmy Butler in Philadelphia doesn’t mean things would have worked out the same way if he had been traded to Miami, Winderman states in a question-and-answer column. He notes that Butler would have been the unquestioned top star with the Heat and the focus of the offense.

Injury Notes: Markkanen, Howard, Dragic, More

Pelicans point guard Elfrid Payton is expected to be sidelined for about six weeks as he recovers from finger surgery, as we relayed earlier today. While the news on Payton is today’s most notable injury update so far, there are items to pass along on several other health issues that could affect teams’ lineups and rotations. Let’s dive in and round up a few…

  • Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen, who has yet to make his season debut, participated in the non-contact portion of the Bulls’ practice today, head coach Fred Hoiberg confirmed (Twitter link). A return isn’t imminent for Markkanen, but it sounds like the injury-ravaged Bulls are moving closer to getting him back on the court. We heard last week that the youngster’s injury recovery was taking longer than initially anticipated.
  • The Wizards‘ weekend, which featured a pair of home losses, went from bad to worse, as the team’s big offseason acquisition, Dwight Howard, re-aggravated his glute injury and left Sunday’s game early. Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington has the story on Howard, who didn’t participate in Monday’s practice (Twitter link).
  • Heat guard Goran Dragic had his right knee drained this morning and will miss at least the next two games, the team announced today (via Twitter). The hope is that the inflammation in Dragic’s knee will subside and it won’t be a long-term issue.
  • James Johnson returned to action for the Heat on Sunday, appearing in his first game of the 2018/19 season. As Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel relays, head coach Erik Spolestra said that Johnson, who picked up five fouls in 15 minutes, “needs game minutes to get into rhythm.”
  • Pacers guard Victor Oladipo will miss the team’s next game, but doesn’t view his right knee injury as serious, per J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star (Twitter link). “A little sore, but I’m good,” Oladipo said.

Southeast Notes: Walker, Heat, Wizards

After Kemba Walker‘s explosive 60-point performance Saturday against the 76ers, Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer argues that the Hornets shouldn’t overthink things, and should offer Walker the maximum allowable contract this summer. Walker will be an unrestricted free agent as he enters his age-29 season, and Bonnell makes a case for the importance of keeping the point guard around, despite the team’s struggles in recent years.

Walker is having a career season, averaging 28.7 points and 6.1 assists per game, and is certainly capable of taking over any game with his scoring ability. Walker would certainly be expensive — his full, five-year max projects to be worth $189MM+, unless he makes an All-NBA team this season, in which the deal could be worth up to $221MM. However, Hornets owner Michael Jordan has shown that he isn’t afraid to spend to keep players in Charlotte, and Bonnell argues that this instance should be no exception for the team’s leader.

There’s more from the Southeast division:

James Johnson May Not Be Ready For Season Opener

Heat forward James Johnson hasn’t been medically cleared for contact and may not be ready when the season begins next month, relays Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald.

Johnson had surgery in May for a sports hernia that he suffered at the end of January. He remains hopeful that he’ll be ready for the October 17 season opener, but that depends on his medical progress.

“My goal would be be back before that first game, try to get a couple preseason games in,” Johnson said. “… I am not going to push nothing I’m not supposed to push. A setback would be the same as going back for surgery, I believe.”

Asked about being cleared for contact drills, Johnson responded, “I wish I knew the answer to that. I can’t veer off from this path they’ve got us on. I have to stay humbled and stay patient.”

Coach Erik Spoelstra described Johnson’s condition as close to 100% and said he will be participating in every practice, although his level of involvement will be determined by the medical staff.

Johnson elected not to tell the Heat about the injury when it occurred because he was concerned he might be sidelined for the rest of the season. He opted to play through the pain and address it once the team was eliminated from the playoffs.

“I thought it was just a strain,” he said. “I didn’t know what to call it. At first it wasn’t even that terrible. As the season went on, a little bit of my abilities started to go with it.”

Miami already faces the prospect of starting the season without Dion Waiters, who is recovering from ankle surgery in January. He was given an eight- to 10-month recovery prognosis, which could put his return in late November.

“He didn’t have a setback,” Spoelstra said of Waiters. “He’s actually on course. Everybody’s body is different. He’s been working all summer. You probably noticed his Instagram posts, that’s how everybody follows players now. It hasn’t been like he hasn’t been working. It’s on course. He’ll be back when his body tells him that he can be back.

“The thing I’m encouraged by is he’s able to work, he’s on the court, he’s able to do stuff. He won’t be able to participate in the type of training camp that we’re going to be starting with. But we’ll continue to monitor him. He’ll be with us.”