James Johnson

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.

Southeast Notes: J. Johnson, Hezonja, G League, Batum

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.”

James Johnson Talks New Contract, Heat Culture

James Johnson re-signed with the Heat on a four-year, $60MM deal over the summer and recently spoke with Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders to discuss how great it is to have a long-term contract.

“It really meant everything to me,” Johnson said of landing that four-year deal. “To be in a situation in my life to overcome so much, and to finally get something like that where it’s long-term, where it’s somewhere I really want to be too, it was just all-in-all the best scenario.”

Johnson bounced around the league during his first eight seasons, spending time with the Raptors (two stints), Bulls, Kings, and Grizzlies before finding his way to South Beach. He has seen many NBA franchises from the inside and he believes the Heat’s culture sets them apart.

“Just their want-to, they’re no excuses, act like a champion on and off the court, and just that mental stability of always teaching you, not just drills, not just coaching just because they’re called coaches,” Johnson said. “They really inspire, they really help out, and it makes you want to be in that work environment.”

Many players chase stats or role as they look to cash on a new contract. Johnson explains how having a long-term deal at the age of 30 puts him in position to simply focus on winning.

“I got paid, so there’s no pressure of playing for the money,” Johnson added. “It’s really playing for the wins, playing for your teammates, and playing with a pure heart, not going out there with any agendas, not going out there looking to live up to something that everybody else wants you to live up to. For me, it’s just gelling with our team and making sure our locker room is great like I was mentioning. Go out there and compete and trust each other.”

Heat Notes: Culture, Whiteside, Waiters

A lack of communication may be behind Miami’s sub-par start this season. As Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel writes, the Heat hashed things out in real, raw terms Sunday morning and seem to be in better spirits as a result of it.

We had our discussions this morning,” forward James Johnson said. “We aired it out this morning. A lot of people took heat. I think it was the best thing for us to do, even more important than film. That’s what this culture is about, that’s what we’re about — staring guys in the eyes, telling guys the truth and that’s how you show you really love somebody.”

The Heat started famously bad last season before rallying from an 11-30 start to compete for an Eastern Conference playoff berth. That comeback was built largely on the culture that Johnson refers to.

There’s more out of Miami this weekend:

  • Dion Waiters will still get an opportunity to be a closer for the Heat, despite the fact that he struggled mightily against the Celtics this weekend. Head coach Erik Spoesltra told the Sun Sentinel that, despite a lingering ankle issue that occasionally appears to impede him, Waiters will continue to be fully in the mix heading forward.
  • The Heat have been without Hassan Whiteside since their season opener. Point guard Goran Dragic considers the 28-year-old center to be the heart of the team, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel reports. The big man has missed four games with a bone bruise on his knee.
  • The Heat haven’t started their campaign how they would have liked to and emotions are starting to ramp up. “I love all the emotions that players go through,” head coach Erik Spoelstra told the media, including the Sun Sentinel. “I don’t even care if it boils over. It means you care.”

Heat Rumors: Hammons, Liggins, Olynyk, Waiters

Rodney McGruder‘s injury could force the Heat to address the imbalanced roster, as Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald details. McGruder is out 3-6 months with a stress fracture in his leg, swinging the door open for Miami to keep or add another wing player, Jackson continues. The bottom of the roster is filled with power forwards and centers — Bam Adebayo, Udonis Haslem, Jordan Mickey and A.J. Hammons — and the Heat may have to waive Hammons and his guaranteed two-year contract to fortify the wing positions. Miami could keep either DeAndre Liggins or Matt Williams Jr. from its training-camp roster to fill the void, Jackson adds.

In other developments concerning the Heat:

  • Kelly Olynyk has made a strong case to be the starting power forward, even though James Johnson came into camp as the favorite to win the job, Jackson reports in another story. Olynyk has meshed well with center Hassan Whiteside in preseason action, which is making the decision tougher for coach Erik Spoelstra, Jackson continues. “Their skill sets really complement each other,” Spoelstra told Jackson and other media members. “Kelly does a lot of things very similar to JJ in his own personality, in his own way. We think it fits. We think it works whether he comes off the bench or not, I like the dynamic.”
  • Dion Waiters had to wait out the Gordon Hayward free agent saga before the Heat committed to him with a four-year, $52MM contract, Sports Illustrated’s Rohan Nadkarni notes during an in-depth feature on Waiters. A confident Waiters opted out of his deal this summer and the gamble ultimately paid off when Miami lost the Hayward sweepstakes and instead spent a chunk of their free-agent money on Waiters. “He likes to say he bet on himself, but he also bet on the organization,” Spoelstra told Nadkarni. “We bet on him as well. We’re not only about reclamation projects. We wanted to develop a relationship that would last longer than a year.”