Dion Waiters said he’s going home to Philadelphia. Tyler Johnson said he too is getting out of Miami.
Much like Hassan Whiteside, Josh Richardson has a vacation in the Caribbean planned with some of his childhood friends this coming weekend. Coach Erik Spoelstra, though he won’t divulge where he’s going, also plans on being “on a beach somewhere.”
Though the grind of the NBA season is about to provide those not headed to New Orleans for the All-Star festivities a much-needed, six-day break, there’s at least one Heat player who says he isn’t going to take any days off: forward James Johnson, who is in the midst of a career season and would prefer to keep working through his vacation to avoid any rust setting in.
“This year is not the time for me to do it,” said Johnson, 29, who after signing a one-year, $4 million deal with the Heat last summer is in line for a significant raise come July. “I’m going to stick to my grind, stick to my same routine with the weights and keep everything flowing the same way so I’m not trying to come in after the All-Star break and trying to get my rhythm back.”
Johnson said his plan is to stick around AmericanAirlines Arena on Thursday and Friday for some basketball and some weight lifting. The Heat as a team will not practice again until next Wednesday, two days before opening the post All-Star break part of the schedule Feb. 24 in Atlanta.
“Lifting weights or doing something for 15 minutes on the court ain’t going to hurt nobody,” Johnson said. “Like I said, I know a day or two off is going throw me off my goal. So I'm not going to take it.”
Spoelstra, though, believes his players could all use some time to get away from the game.
The Heat, which was 11-30 at the real midway point of the season back on Jan. 13, burned a lot of energy during its 13-game winning streak, which put the franchise back in the playoff race heading into the second half.
“I think it’s more important for the guys’ state of mind just to be able to not think about the game at all,” Spoelstra said. “I really recommend the guys, at least the first three days, spend time with family, loved ones, friends, but don’t think about the game. We’ve been on edge now for over a month, six weeks, really locked in and we do need some time to decompress.
“When we come back it will be a furious finish, the games will have too much importance. That’s what these guys live for. They love that time of year. But you do need to recalibrate, recharge and then get back to it.”
Since Pat Riley arrived in Miami in 1995, the Heat has played .500 or better after the All-Star break in all but two seasons (2002-03 and 2007-08, seasons which ended with high lottery picks). Last season, the Heat went 19-10 after the All-Star break and went from the fifth seed in the East to the third seed.
The Heat went into Wednesday’s game in Houston two games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.
It’s safe to say continuing that playoff push is of the highest priority when the Heat recovene next week.
“It’s always good to get a little mental, physical break to allow your body to get back and heal,” said Waiters, who missed 23 games in the first half of the season because of injry.
“I think it’s good to go there and relax, just get away from it, not think about it for a couple of days, relax with your family, but still remember the importance of what we’re trying to get done. When we come back, we’ve got to lock in because every game is important.”
When players do come back, Spoelstra will be waiting for them much the same way Riley used to when he coached the Heat – with a weight scale for them to stand on.
When Riley coached he required players to return from the All-Star break having reached a target weight. If they didn’t, they faced fines. Nothing, Spoelstra said, has changed.
“Why would you think for a second that would change,” Spoelstra said with a smile. “I’m a product of Pat Riley and his culture. That remains the same and everything we’ve always done will remain the same.”