Tyler Johnson hears the whispers.
That tends to happens when a player gets a hefty pay raise as part of a heavily backloaded contract.
As his salary balloons, so do the expectations others are placing on him.
The outsiders have their opinions. What makes Johnson, the Miami Heat's 26-year-old shooting guard, worth $19.25 million each of the next two years?
Johnson has a simple response to those critics: Out of sight, out of mind.
“It doesn't bother me," Johnson said Tuesday. "It’s just a nicer paycheck when I go home."
Yes, it's definitely nice. If Johnson were paid that salary this season, he would have been the ninth-highest paid shooting guard in the league.
And according to Spotrac, Johnson will be due more money next season than the Golden State Warriors' Klay Thompson ($18.9 million) and will be paid almost an identical salary to the Minnesota Timberwolves' Jimmy Butler ($19.8 million). Both shooting guards are four-time All-Stars and have averaged at least 20 points over each of the past four seasons.
"I know for other people maybe on the outside looking in, it’s, ‘This guy is not worth what that is. But I would say the Heat wouldn’t have matched that contract if they didn’t [think that]," Johnson said. "It was all laid out from the get-go. So it’s not like a surprise. It’s not like salaries are unveiled every year. It’s been known what it was going to be."
But Johnson still has a drive to improve, especially after the Heat's first-round exit from the NBA Playoffs.
Johnson played in 72 games last season with 39 starts and averaged 28.5 minutes, 11.7 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. He set career-best marks in three-pointers made (119) and free-throw percentage (.822).
The focus this offseason, Johnson said, is improving his mental game.
“I have a lot of tools that I haven’t even really tapped into yet because I haven’t known how to," Johnson said. "It all starts with my mental stability and my mental understanding of the game. I think the physical aspect can, obviously, get better. You can always improve, and get bigger, stronger and faster."
Rehabbing his injured thumb is a priority, too.
Johnson had surgery to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb on April 30. He wore a bright pink adjustable cast around his hand Tuesday that he said will likely be removed in a couple weeks.
Johnson said doctors told him after he suffered the injury in Game 3 of the Heat's first-round playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers surgery would be likely. He fought through the pain to play the remainder of the five-game playoff series. He spent the first week of the season
"It was a matter of pain tolerance," Johnson said. "If you can play with it, awesome and that’s a plus. If not, it’s understandable and we can operate it. But it really wasn’t super painful. It was just going to be something that was going to restrict some movement in my thumb and obviously it was going to have some sort of effect on basketball. I was able to play with it. We had a special tape job, so it didn’t move too much."
And as for the always asked tooth situation, Johnson visited a dentist and had some preliminary work done.
"In about two months, I’ll have a surprise for y’all," Johnson said. "By next year for sure, you’ll be amazed.”