If there’s been a constant to this Heat preseason, it’s been Josh Richardson showing everyone he’s healthy and that his game continues to improve.
Richardson started for the third consecutive preseason game at point guard for Goran Dragic in the Heat’s 117-115 victory Wednesday night over the Wizards.
Richardson finished with 13 points, an assist and two rebounds in 24 minutes as Heat coach Erik Spoelstra gave some of his reserves more playing time.
Richardson said earlier this week maintaining his health is the biggest key to his success.
“Everything starts with getting healthy,” Richardson said after Monday’s win over the Hornets in which he also led the Heat in scoring with 18 points. “I’m confident. Everything comes from there.”
Among Richardson’s highlights was an alley-oop dunk off a well-timed feed from Tyler Johnson 59 seconds into the second quarter.
Richardson played 80 percent of his minutes last season at small forward.
Regardless of whether Richardson earns a starting spot there this year, he’s proving he can stay on the court and his value at the 1-through-3 positions.
Richardson, 24, signed a four-year, $42 million contract extension with the Heat last summer.
Richardson missed all of training camp last season and did not play in the preseason or in the Heat’s first four regular season games due to a right MCL sprain. He missed 27 games overall as he later suffered a right ankle sprain and a left foot sprain.
Richardson came on strong during the home stretch of the Heat’s 30-11 second half, starting the final 14 games. He averaged a career-best 10.2 points with 3.2 assists, 2.6 rebounds, and 0.8 blocks in 30.5 minutes.
“It would have been really interesting coming off his rookie year if he was healthy last year,” Spoelstra said earlier this week. “Our expectations were pretty high last year. If he would have been able to put together several months of playing-game experience where he would have been at the end of the year, and where he ended up being anyway, it’s pretty darn good.”
Richardson said his leg feels noticeably better so far this season.
“Every time I push off and jump off my right leg,” Richardson said. “Last year I felt every time I jumped it was flat.”
▪ Jordan Mickey played 19-plus minutes and nailed the game-winning three-pointer with 1.9 seconds left to secure the Heat’s victory. Mickey, who was acquired as a free agent and played with the Celtics last season, finished with 12 points.
Even though it was a preseason game, the entire Heat bench poured out onto the court after the final buzzer to celebrate Mickey’s game-winner as several teammates hugged him.
Mickey said it was his first game-winning shot since his high school days in Dallas.
“You always come out here to play to win,” Mickey said. “You never know when you might get an opportunity in a game. It feels great to have that camaraderie and have the guys celebrate for me.”
▪ Rookie Bam Adebayo led the Heat in scoring, finishing with 15 points in 23 minutes. Adebayo scored seven of his points in a span of 1:19 in the second quarter and had two dunks off alley-oop passes. Adebayo had played only 26 minutes combined over the first four preseason games.
“He was a thousand times better in the second quarter,” Spoelstra said. “I was going to try and trick him somehow just to keep him off balance, but he was so ready and you see the athleticism, the toughness, the multiple efforts that he brings.”
Okaro White started at power forward, but exited with 3:43 left and did not return after suffering a left shoulder strain. White played 13 minutes, did not score and picked up three fouls. He had only played 28 minutes and appeared in three games in the preseason prior to Wednesday’s game.
“It’s a strained shoulder,” Spoelstra said. “He said he feels better, but we’ll see how he feels after tonight.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ Dragic, who sat out his third consecutive game as part of his maintenance program, recently shaved the beard he had grown earlier this summer as a tribute to his late grandfather, Mijodrag, who passed away in late August.
Dragic said he’d keep the beard for a period of 40 days, which is a traditional homage in his culture when losing a family member or close friend.
“[The beard] was starting to make me look old,” Dragic said. “It was getting itchy, too.”
▪ Dion Waiters and Hassan Whiteside did not play as the Heat started a lineup of Richardson, White, Wayne Ellington, Kelly Olynyk and Rodney McGruder. Waiters has played the third-most minutes on the team (93) this preseason and Whiteside is averaging 21.5 minutes per game.
▪ Ellington, who had gone 5 of 24 from three-point range in the preseason, went 3 for 6 from that distance Wednesday.