The Miami Heat’s preseason included more than just one bright spot, but Josh Richardson is at the top of that list.
Richardson’s talent was on full display in Friday’s preseason finale, as the Heat defeated the Atlanta Hawks 119-113. Miami closed its six-game preseason at 3-3, with Wednesday’s regular-season opener against the Orlando Magic up next.
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Richardson was the Heat’s best player for the second consecutive game, finishing with a team-high 24 points on 7 of 12 shooting and three assists. This comes after the 25-year-old wing player scored 25 on 9 of 16 shooting in Wednesday’s preseason win over the New Orleans Pelicans.
“The last two days of training camp looked like this and the start of that scrimmage as well. He was playing like this,” coach Erik Spoelstra said when asked about Richardson’s preseason production. “He’s put in a lot of work this summer. He’s prepared himself to take another big step. We talk about it all the time, when you’re a young player, really this is effectively his third year because of missed games. In that third year or in his case fourth year, you can make some of the biggest jumps in your career.”
After missing the first three preseason games with a left thigh contusion, Richardson didn’t let the remaining three exhibition games go to waste. He averaged 18 points on 52.9 percent shooting in three preseason games as he works to be a more aggressive offensive player this year.
“I definitely would call it productive,” Richardson said of the preseason. “I think I got to work on some things and I think we got to get our chemistry with a lot of the guys that got to play together.”
Center Hassan Whiteside contributed 15 points and four rebounds in 16 minutes. Whiteside averaged 13 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.2 blocks this preseason.
Rodney McGruder finished with 12 points, six rebounds and two assists. He finished with double-digit points in each of the five preseason games he played in.
The Hawks led by as many as 14 points, but Miami outscored Atlanta 66-47 in the second half on its way to the victory. Richardson scored 12 on 4-of-5 shooting over the final two quarters.
The Heat opened with a starting group of Goran Dragic, Richardson, McGruder, Derrick Jones Jr. and Whiteside. Dragic, Richardson and Whiteside will be in the starting lineup to start the season next week, but the other two spots are open with Dion Waiters (left ankle surgery) and James Johnson (sports hernia surgery) still working their way back.
The Heat were without Waiters, Johnson, Wayne Ellington (left ankle soreness) and Justise Winslow (rest) against the Hawks.
While Winslow didn’t play, he did agree to a three-year, $39 million extension with the Heat on Friday, a league source confirmed to the Miami Herald. The deal includes a team option in the third year.
“We feel comfortable with the group that we have,” Spoelstra said, with the Heat just days away from starting the regular season. “We know we have some guys that are out and are working their way back very quickly. But I was able to look at quite a few different lineups, rotations, different looks. A lot of good things we can build from. It was a very productive training camp and now we get ready for preparation for Game 1.”