James Johnson hasn’t been himself this season.
And the Heat’s co-captain isn’t sugarcoating things when asked about his subpar play at times through the team’s first 14 games.
“I’m killing myself every night, every day,” Johnson said. “It’s just been terrible performances out of me and not just from an offensive standpoint, the defense. I can put my prints on the game better on the defensive end. Our second unit, Tyler [Johnson] and me, we should come in and have that same effect we had last year and we haven’t been able to do that.”
Johnson shot only 1-of-5 from the field Wednesday night in a 102-93 loss to the Washington Wizards and finished with only five points, two rebounds and two assists.
Johnson is averaging 11.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game in 13 games played. The scoring is not a major drop-off from his 12.8 points average a year ago. And he’s averaging more rebounds than his 4.9 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game he averaged last season.
But in games such as Wednesday’s loss, which was his third game this season in which he scored five points or fewer, his lack of productivity is clearly having an impact. Johnson’s plus-minus so far this season is minus-2.8. Last year, he finished plus-1.8 for the season.
“It’s just me,” Johnson said. “I’m not giving into the team. I’m not giving into the guys. That’s not like me and that’s not my character. I just got to step up.”
Johnson signed a four-year, $60 million deal in the offseason.
Johnson was named one of the Heat’s three team captains along with Udonis Haslem and Goran Dragic at the beginning of this season.
Dragic said Thursday he has tried to advise Johnson not to put too much pressure on himself to live up to expectations.
“I talk to him a lot, I already tell him don’t put pressure on yourself,” Dragic said. “He’s set, he signed the deal and we need him to be back to his old JJ, not to put too much pressure about the contract or what people expect. I already told him, ‘Be you, how you be last year, that’s how you should play.’ Relax like you did last year and try to make plays on defense, offense.
“We feel like he’s closer every game. He’s putting too much pressure on himself and that’s what we want to eliminate, those thoughts. Just go out there, don’t think too much, play free and only good things are going to happen.”
PROPS FROM RIVAL?
Sixers center Joel Embiid may have actually given some props to Hassan Whiteside after a memorable performance late Wednesday night against the Lakers.
Embiid finished with 46 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists and seven blocks and then lamented coming up short of a quadruple-double.
Whiteside has four career triple-doubles that include 10 or more blocked shots in addition to double-digit points and rebounds, a harder combination to pull off.
Embiid told reporters after the game: “I wish I could have had the quadruple-double with blocks. Shout out Hassan Whiteside.”
Was it a complement among the two rivals who exchanged Twitter barbs after a preseason matchup on Oct. 14 in Kansas City?
Whiteside said he was unaware of Embiid’s comment and seemed unsure how to react to it after Thursday’s practice.
“Oh? Thanks, Embiid,” Whiteside said.
The two big men won’t have their on-court rematch until Feb. 2 in Philadelphia.
WHITE UNDERGOES SURGERY
Forward Okaro White underwent successful surgery Thursday morning to repair a fifth metatarsal fracture in his left foot. White suffered the injury during Tuesday’s practice when he said he felt a “pop” in his foot as he went up for a reverse layup.
White, who started four games at power forward but has not played since Nov. 6, has been ruled out indefinitely.
White is averaging 3.3 points and 1.8 rebounds in 13.3 minutes while shooting 43.8 percent from the field.
“I texted with [White] before our team meeting [Thursday],” Spoelstra said. “He was in good spirits. He’s a tough resilient kid. I’m inspired by his attitude even when he got the news about it. He’ll handle it the right way.”
TEAM DOCTOR HONORED
Heat team physician Dr. Harlan Selesnick performed White’s surgery along with Dr. Thomas San Giovanni at Miami Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Institute at Doctors Hospital.
Selesnick was honored this week with a “Key to the City” in recognition of excellence in the field of orthopedic surgery. The honor was presented to him this week by newly sworn-in Miami Mayor Francis Suarez. Selesnick has been the Heat’s team physician since 1988.