The Heat’s prize for missing the 2015 playoffs was a chance to draft Justise Winslow.
Now, Winslow will enter the 2016 playoffs as a healthy and important member of the rotation.
After missing Tuesday night’s win against the Detroit Pistons with a sore ankle, Winslow entered Wednesday’s game with 3:44 left in the first quarter, the 78th game he played in his rookie season, twice as many as he played as a collegian.
And then he played well, with six points and seven rebounds in the first half.
He entered Tuesday’s game with 2,204 minutes played, third-most among rookies, behind only Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns and the Lakers’ D’Angelo Russell, who were drafted first and second, respectively.
Winslow’s teammate, Josh Richardson, entered Tuesday 19th among rookies in minutes, though he was drafted 40th overall and wasn’t in the rotation until the All-Star break. He played more minutes this season than any other second-round pick, and Winslow and Richardson combined played more minutes than any team’s rookie duo other than Russell and Larry Nance Jr. of the Lakers.
Udonis Haslem wasn’t supposed to be active Wednesday. The Heat declared him out after he injured his left foot on Tuesday in Detroit. And a team source told the Miami Herald that Haslem would likely miss a few days with a torn plantar fascia.
But Haslem doesn’t sit without a fight.
Especially not when he finally worked his way into the back end of the rotation, getting a few minutes in each of the previous six games, including the eight against the Pistons before he was injured.
The 13-year veteran will now participate in the postseason for an 11th time, missing — along with Dwyane Wade — only in 2008 and 2015.
▪ Tyler Johnson wanted to return prior to the end of the regular season following shoulder surgery in late January, but it didn’t happen.
Johnson has been frustrated of late with the pace of his progress, especially the lingering soreness after shooting workouts. It’s unclear whether Johnson, who is a pending free agent, will be available in the playoffs.
▪ After sitting against Detroit, with Amar’e Stoudemire getting the first call behind Hassan Whiteside, Josh McRoberts was the first big off the bench on Wednesday. He is now working as an undersized center rather than a power forward.
“The way that we play, it’s really not that big of a difference,” McRoberts said. “It’s good. I like it.”
McRoberts played just 42 games this season after only 17 in 2014-15. He laughed when asked if his “challenging” time in Miami could be a blessing now, with his body rested.
“You want to play 82 games, you want to play all 48 minutes,” McRoberts said. “But, yeah, if you look for the positive in things, hopefully you can be fresh.”
▪ Kobe Bryant’s career ended Wednesday, as Wade’s went on. The lessons that the Lakers legend taught the Heat icon won’t be forgotten quickly. In an interview that originally appeared on CBSSports.com, Wade relayed Bryant’s words when Wade was wrestling with playing in his mid-30s.
“We talked a lot this summer, more than we’ve ever talked,” Wade said. “As I knew I was going to be 34. I looked back at the year he was 34, and I looked back at the season he had, and it was amazing. I just reached out to him a lot, talked to him a lot. But the biggest thing he said was, ‘Man, just work your [butt] off. Get your body physically ready for what it is about to endure. And push it. Push it to those limits now. So when it’s time in the season, you’re ready for it.’ ”
“So that’s what I did this summer. I pushed my body to those limits. So when the season came, I was like, OK. And I hadn’t done that in a few years. He’s just all about hard work, man. That’s his message. Always.”