Heat’s Justise Winslow on his growth as a player and person
Whether it’s competing to see who can make more threes after practice or keeping track of their in-game dunks to see who finishes the season with the most, Heat teammates Dwyane Wade and Justise Winslow are usually up to something together.
“We don’t know the official count,” Winslow said when asked who won Tuesday’s post-practice three-point shooting contest between him and Wade. “But I think I’ve made more threes than him this year. We’ll see when we look at the numbers. I’m probably going to win the dunk thing, too. I’m truthfully winning, but by his count, I’m losing.”
A look at the numbers, entering Wednesday’s matchup against the Pistons, proves Winslow is right. He’s made more threes than Wade this season, 84 to 62, and has completed more dunks, 14 to 11.
Winslow will let Wade feel like he’s winning, though. Because at 22, all Winslow cares about at the moment is soaking up as much knowledge as he can before the 37-year-old Wade retires at the end of the season.
“Just the joy he’s bringing to our team and just the positivity, even when we’re going through tough times, still being able to go out and see all the ‘Last Dance’ supporters and fans,” Winslow said. “It kind of gave us some energy and gave us positivity to push through that tough stretch we were going through.
“It’s motivated me to try to get to that level, where fans support me like that — showing up to the hotel at 3 a.m. just to see him and hopefully get an autograph. This whole thing has been an inspiration and motivation for me. Just to see how he’s been carrying himself. He’s a basketball icon.”
Wade has said in the past he believes Winslow has the potential to be the Heat’s next leader, noting: “I think that’s going to be who he is.”
Part of that is because of the competitiveness and edge Winslow consistently plays with on the court. Winslow thinks that’s one of the reasons Wade is drawn to him.
“I think for him just to have someone that he sees with the same type of passion and heart and intensity that I play with, that he played with at a young age, as well,” Winslow said. “I think he sees a little bit of that in myself, so for me it’s just about trying to pick up everything on the court, off the court. How he carries himself and different reads in the pick and rolls. It’s been a great thing for me.”
A great thing that Winslow said has contributed to his breakout season. He’s averaging career-bests in points (12.5), rebounds (5.5) and assists (4.3), while shooting a career-best 43.1 percent from the field.
“When he got back last year, you saw the increase in my numbers. Just having him around has meant a great deal for me,” Winslow said of Wade. “I got to figure out this [expletive] next year (when he’s retired). But for right now, I’m in a good place.”
Entering Wednesday, the Heat had used the 2-3 zone defense more than any other team in the league this season.
But lately, teams have been ready for it. The Cavaliers made 19 threes in Friday’s loss to the Heat, many of them coming against the zone, and the Heat also allowed a franchise record 21 threes in Sunday’s loss to the Raptors.
“Teams are catching up,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “The league always adapts. Our zone has adapted quite a bit. It’s a little bit different than it was before. The competition has required that. It’ll continue to be a weapon of ours. It’s never going to be something that we’re playing for 48 minutes.”
▪ Heat wing player Josh Richardson is questionable for Wednesday’s game against the Pistons because of right hamstring soreness.