Miami Heat

James Johnson to make season debut vs. Lakers. Spoelstra: ‘We don’t have time to wait anymore’

Miami Heat Erik Spoelstra talks about James Johnson and the hernia surgery

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra talks about James Johnson's progress after his sports hernia surgery during media day at the American Airlines Arena on September 24, 2018.
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Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra talks about James Johnson's progress after his sports hernia surgery during media day at the American Airlines Arena on September 24, 2018.

James Johnson is ready.

The Heat forward will make his season debut Sunday against the Lakers after missing the entire preseason and the first 15 games of the season as he recovered from May surgery to repair a sports hernia. Rodney McGruder, who was listed as questionable on the injury report with a left quadriceps contusion, will also be available for the Heat against the Lakers.

“We don’t have time to wait anymore,” said coach Erik Spoelstra, with the Heat entering Sunday’s contest at 6-9. “[Johnson has] put in a tremendous amount of work. He’s been working very diligently with contact and these type of things for several weeks.”

Johnson said last week he felt healthy, but still needed to drop weight and cut body fat before returning.

“I want to be in the best shape, and it requires a lot,” Johnson said. “I’m just happy I have a GM, head coach and training staff that push me to get there and see the best in my abilities when I am at that weight.

“When I come back, I’m not trying to be on a minutes restriction. I feel like I’m getting all the way healthy. So when I’m able to play, I want to play.”

But Spoelstra said before Sunday’s game there will be a minutes restriction on Johnson.

“It’s not a definitive one, but [athletic trainer Jay Sabol] and I have talked quite a bit,” Spoelstra said. “I’ve talked with JJ. Of course, he thinks he can play his full allotment of minutes. That will not happen on my watch. We’ll ease him back into this. It’s not easy to be out seven months and miss preseason games, and early regular-season games.

However, the news was not as good regarding point guard Goran Dragic.

Dragic will not play against the Lakers because of a right knee injury that also forced him to miss two games last week on Nov. 7 and Nov. 9. The Heat’s starting point guard has played in four games since then, and finished Friday’s loss to the Pacers with eight points on 3 of 8 shooting in 34 minutes.

An MRI on Dragic’s knee returned negative when he originally hurt it earlier this month. But the Heat will re-evaluate the injury Monday.

“We’ll find out. We’re going to re-evaluate him tomorrow and have those kind of discussions,” Spoelstra said in advance of Sunday’s game. “We felt like it was something we could get under control. There are no absolutes in this league and every case is different, and his knee hasn’t responded the way any of us had hoped. When you’re playing games constantly and you’re as competitive as Goran, he wants to be there for his team.”

Two-way contract players Duncan Robinson and Yante Maten are both with the Heat and will be active against the Lakers.

The Heat remains without Dion Waiters (left ankle surgery) and Dwyane Wade (paternity leave).

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