Dwyane Wade was still digesting the Heat’s season-ending Game 7 loss to the Raptors on Sunday night, still wet and wearing nothing but a towel inside the locker room when he looked over at Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson, whose heads were down, and asked them a question.
“I asked them, ‘What was your first taste was like?’ ” Wade said referring to the playoffs. “I said, ‘Was it what you expected?’
“They thought the regular season was tough. You hear about the playoffs as rookie. But then you’re like, ‘Yo, this is tough.’ It’s tough to win.
“For those guys to get playoff experience, especially two series that both went seven games, is going to be great for their careers moving forward. You look at them and their age and they have so much in front of them. They have so many more opportunities left and you just smile thinking about the possibilities of what they can do. The experiences they learned in their first year, and with the group of guys that were around them, will help propel them for the rest of their careers. So, hopefully, it’s great things to come for those guys.”
Never miss a local story.
The way their first season ended Sunday didn’t sit well with either rookie. Losing in blowout fashion, one game away from the team goal of reaching the Eastern Conference finals, stung them both.
“I haven’t even thought about the offseason yet,” Richardson said when asked what his plans were for the summer. “I’m probably going to go back to Miami for a little bit and just figure things out.”
Said Winslow: “I was so locked in on this. I wanted to play until July.”
The playoffs didn’t end the way they wanted to. But the lessons learned were valuable.
Winslow averaged 6.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and shot only 43.2 percent in 329 minutes. Richardson averaged 6.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and shot 37.1 percent from the field in 386 minutes.
None of those statistics were special. But the day-in, day-out preparation for a playoff game, Winslow said, taught him “better habits.” And those are things, he said, he plans to start with from Day One of next season.
“This league is tough,” Richardson said. “It’s one thing to watch it on TV your whole life and tell yourself you can play and stuff. It’s another thing to actually be in it every day. It’s a tough league.
“But I think myself and Justise, I know we put a lot of work into it, and I think we represented ourselves well.
“I played more than I expected going into this year. I thought I would just be learning from the older guys and just kind of watching. But once I started playing, being effective, I was thankful for that opportunity to be able to do that. I’m going to work my butt off every day this summer just to get better.”
Richardson said that will start with his court vision. He had 22 assists and 12 turnovers in the playoffs. For someone who sees himself as a combo guard, that’s not good enough, he said.
“There were a lot of situations where I think I could have made something happen for my teammates – and I didn’t see it yet,” he said. “That’s probably the biggest thing -- playmaking.”
Winslow said his plan is to “work on everything.”
“The pickup in intensity from the regular season to playoffs — its’ one of those things you don’t know until you experience it, go through it,” Winslow said. “Going through this first season with everything I learned — different situations, different positions, playing different players, things on film, everything I’ve learned I feel like I’m going to be a better player from it.
“Whenever I can mentally and emotionally allow myself to reflect, I’m sure I’ll look back and be sort of satisfied, sort of happy with the season I had.”
But for now, he’s happy with letting the pain of losing sink in.