Miami Heat

Heat lineup depleted further as James Johnson expected to be out at least a week

Miami Heat forward James Johnson, shown guarding Golden State Warriors’ Kevin Durant earlier this season, suffered a lower leg injury during the first quarter of the Heat’s basketball game at the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Sat., Dec. 16, 2017.
Miami Heat forward James Johnson, shown guarding Golden State Warriors’ Kevin Durant earlier this season, suffered a lower leg injury during the first quarter of the Heat’s basketball game at the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Sat., Dec. 16, 2017. dsantiago@miamiherald.com

The Heat’s list of injuries keeps growing.

James Johnson, the Heat’s starting power forward, underwent an MRI on Sunday that revealed right ankle bursitis according to the team.

Johnson hurt himself with 6:15 left in the first quarter of the Heat’s 90-85 victory over the L.A. Clippers at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Johnson made a leaping attempt to block Clippers guard Jawun Evans as he drove to the basket and appeared to land awkwardly. He immediately started limping toward the Heat bench and proceeded to the locker room unable to return to the game.

Johnson is expected to miss seven to 10 days and did not travel with the team to Atlanta for its next game Monday night against the Hawks — the first of a two-game road stretch that includes a game at Boston on Wednesday.

If the timetable holds true, Johnson would miss the Heat’s next four or five games, meaning he would be out when Miami plays the Mavericks (Friday) and Pelicans (Saturday) and possibly the Magic (Dec. 26) at home after the trip.

The Heat’s depth has already been tested plenty through the season’s first 29 games even before Johnson’s injury with Hassan Whiteside, Justise Winslow, Rodney McGruder and Okaro White already out.

Whiteside did not make the trip as he continues to rehab the bone bruise in his left knee, which means he will have missed 11 consecutive games by the time the Heat plays the Celtics. Whiteside, who has not played since the Heat’s loss in Cleveland on Nov. 28, has missed a career-high 16 games overall.

Winslow (left knee strain) is making the trip and appears likely to be the first among the group that could return in the coming days.

White, a backup option for Johnson early in the season, had surgery on his left foot, has not played since Nov. 6, and is out indefinitely.

Miami Heat coach Spoelstra talks about surpassing Pat Riley’s team wins record with the Heat’s 90-85 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Dec. 16, 2017

The Heat believes McGruder (left leg stress fracture) will be back later this season, but he’s still two months into a three-to-six month rehab process after undergoing surgery in October.

“We got a lot of guys out,” rookie center Bam Adebayo said. “James went out and everybody was like we got to come together, we got to keep competing. We took it to another level of Miami Heat basketball. Even though our captain is out we still got to look forward and keep playing our basketball.”

Johnson, who signed a four-year, $60 million deal in July, is averaging 10.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.1 assists and shooting 49.4 percent in 27.5 minutes this season.

Johnson’s immediate absence presents a quandary for the Heat at least until Whiteside and Winslow, who started 15 games this season, are ready to return.

The Heat could go with a lineup of Kelly Olynyk, who has been starting at center in Whiteside’s recent absence, and Adebayo alongside Goran Dragic, Josh Richardson and Dion Waiters. The group has played together in five games this season averaging 8.2 points in 4.5 minutes.

Miami Heat guard Josh Richardson talks about his career-high 28 points against the Los Angeles Clippers on Dec. 16, 2017

Playing a combination of Olynyk and Whiteside together could also be an option if Johnson isn’t able to return before Whiteside. Udonis Haslem, who did not play on Saturday, is also a potential option off the bench.

Spoelstra could also opt to insert Jordan Mickey into the starting lineup.

Mickey, who had appeared in only five games before Winslow’s injury, has totaled 17 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and three blocks over the past two games.

“I’ve spent a lot of time with J.J.,” Mickey said. “He’s talked to me a lot. He’s always said, ‘Eventually your number will get called.’ I’m not happy in this particular position, but I’ll be ready, Coach needs me and I’m already ready.”

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