Josh Richardson was minding his own business in the Heat’s training room Friday morning.
Then someone gave him a playful shove that felt very familiar.
It was Dwyane Wade.
“It was cool, it kind of felt like he never left,” Richardson said. “I was doing a little thing in the training room and I didn’t see him. He pushed me and I was like ‘Yo!’ I turned around, it was Trey [Wade] and I was like ‘Oh, what up?’”
Wade was back at AmericanAirlines Arena on Friday morning working out and catching up with former teammates like Richardson, with whom he has been reunited after being traded to the Heat from the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Wade and forward Luke Babbitt, another former Miami player acquired Thursday via trade, would be available to play against the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night.
The last Heat team Wade was a part of before now was the 2015-16 team (Richardson’s rookie season) that advanced to the second round of the playoffs before losing in seven games to the Toronto Raptors.
Richardson played in 52 games that season, but started just two, averaging 6.6 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game.
Two years later, Richardson has become one of the team’s most valuable players and one of the NBA’s best defenders.
Richardson ranks 27th in defensive rating (103) this season among all NBA players having played at least 1,700 minutes. And he’s averaging 13.4 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.3 steals per game.
Richardson said he kept in touch frequently with Wade while he was away. He seemed flattered to hear Wade had praised how much he had developed as a player during that time.
“It’s something I never thought I’d hear Dwyane Wade say, that he’s impressed with how I played,” Richardson said. “But I’m grateful for that praise and super impressed with what he’s done in his career and I hope I can just learn from him and emulate some of the things he’s done.”
Richardson feels like a completely different player than he was then, and said he’s excited about the opportunity to learn from Wade as he continues to develop his overall game.
“I didn’t know my game or I didn’t how to be effective on the court my rookie year so I didn’t really know who to take stuff from or what to take,” Richardson said. “But now I think I’ve developed my own style and I think I can take a few things of what Trey [Wade] does and add that to what I want to start doing.”
Richardson said he often sat back his rookie season and watched Wade make the big plays to win games in the clutch.
Richardson has started to become that type of player this season for the Heat, and hopes to learn how to develop that dependability on a consistent basis from Wade.
Richardson has been the Heat’s most clutch player this season, leading the team in plus-minus (45), which as defined by the NBA is when teams are within five points of each other during the final five minutes of a game, in a team-high 128 clutch minutes.
“I just wanna see how he goes about it and how he approaches it because my rookie year I was just like, ‘Oh my God, D-Wade is gonna get the ball, I can’t wait to see what happens,’” Richardson said. “Now I want to start knowing things, how he does it. I want to start learning all the small stuff that he does so hopefully one day I can end up doing the things that he does.”
BABBITT MORE OF A SHOOTER?
Spoelstra was pretty clear on Friday what he wants to see from Luke Babbitt now that the 6-9 forward is back with the Heat.
“I was walking out of the gym and he was working on some shot fake, ‘Hey, leave that shot fake outside this building. Let it fly,’ ” Spoelstra said. “See how much Wayne has changed in the period Luke was gone. Wayne went from how many ever threes a game or per 20 minutes, double that. I’d love to see that from Luke as well.”
Babbitt, whom the Hawks traded back to Miami on Thursday for injured forward Okaro White, was a 41.4 percent three-point shooter in his lone season with the Heat a year ago, and averaged 4.8 points and 2.1 rebounds starting 55 games, mostly to play the first seven or eight minutes of the first and third quarters.
His role typically was to help spread the floor for Hassan Whiteside in the middle and to open up lanes for Dion Waiters and Goran Dragic to drive to the basket.
“We'll see what happens,” Babbitt said. “I'm going to play the way I always play, try to space the floor for these guys, give them driving lanes, play hard on defense and the shots will come.”
▪ Spoelstra said Kelly Olynyk (left shoulder strain) would not play against the Bucks. Olynyk will miss his second consecutive game since injuring his shoulder on Monday against the Magic.
▪ Wayne Ellington (right shoulder strain) was listed as probable and Spoelstra said he participated in the team’s shootaround.