James Johnson said he still feels terrible about losing his cool.
But the punishment taught the Miami Heat’s captain a valuable lesson.
“I have to learn to control myself better in situations like that,” Johnson said. “Violence is not the key. I’m apologetic to the Miami Heat organization, my teammates and the fans.”
Johnson was back in action Sunday and in the starting lineup for the Heat’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks after serving a one-game suspension stemming from an on-court altercation with Toronto Raptors forward Serge Ibaka this past Tuesday.
Johnson came to blows with Ibaka early in the third quarter of the Heat’s 90-89 win in a game that had its share of intense moments including a confrontation between Goran Dragic and DeMar DeRozan after the final whistle that was defused before it became physical. Both Dragic and DeRozan were fined by the league the following day.
Johnson attributed the emotional intensity to what he said was a playoff atmosphere that night in Toronto.
“It was a great competitive game, a lot of physicality,” Johnson said before Sunday’s game. “It was almost a playoff atmosphere and emotions get to running high. But like I said, you have to learn how to control that and be mentally stable enough to finish out the game and not get suspended when your team needs you.”
Johnson, who wasn’t allowed at the arena the next night when he sat out the Heat’s 114-106 win over the Pacers, said he didn’t watch the game live because it wasn’t available at the team hotel.
“It was very difficult,” Johnson said. “I was box score watching it. It helped a little bit. But obviously, I feel terrible.”
Johnson said he was confident the Heat would pull off another victory despite being shorthanded.
“Of course, I didn’t have a doubt in my mind,” Johnson said. “One of our sayings on this team is, we have enough. Regardless of who’s playing, we always feel like we have a chance to win just with the character of the guys in this locker room. There was never a doubt in my mind. But to see their faces when they came on the plane, it was a priceless feeling.”
Johnson, who was averaging 10.6 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game before Sunday, said before suffering an ankle injury that he finally felt as comfortable starting a game or coming off the bench.
Johnson made his first start since Dec. 16 when he suffered the right ankle bursitis that kept him out for six games.
The move allowed the Heat to use the potent frontcourt combination of Bam Adebayo and Kelly Olynyk off the bench against the Bucks.
In 18 games in which the pair has appeared on the court together entering Sunday’s game, Olynyk and Adebayo entered Sunday’s game averaging a combined 21.3 points and 8.2 rebounds in 10.2 minutes per game.
▪ Derrick Jones Jr. was brought back from Sioux Falls Sunday as planned and will also be available Monday for the Heat’s game in Chicago. But the second-year player and former Slam Dunk competition runner-up is giving the Heat more than just an extra body off the bench.
Earlier this week, Jones made his first two starts for the Heat in road wins against the Raptors and Pacers, averaging 8.0 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 24.6 minutes in those games.
Jones rejoined the Heat on Sunday following a terrific performance for Sioux Falls at the G League Showcase in Toronto. Jones finished with 30 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in a overtime win for the Skyforce while the Heat’s other two-way contract player, Derrick Walton Jr. finished with 25 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds.
“It was great, I mean I was happy,” Jones said. “My dad and my mom called me after the game and told me I had a good game. I felt like I played well but there was a few things defensively that I felt I could have done better, but overall I felt I did well.”