His coach at Duke called him the next Dwyane Wade.
Dwyane Wade compared him more to “a Ron Artest-kind-of-player.”
This much is clear: Heat rookie Justise Winslow isn’t a fan of comparisons. He wants to be his own man.
“I don’t really care,” Winslow said Monday when he was told Wade had compared him to Artest, the NBA’s 2004 Defensive Player of the Year who now goes by the name Metta World Peace. “My name is Justise Winslow. [Wade] can compare me, coach can compare me, the media can compare me, but other than that I’m Justise Winslow.”
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The 19-year-old and 10th overall pick in the NBA Draft got his first taste of NBA preseason action Sunday night, and stylistically it was a lot different than the last time we saw him as the featured attraction on the Heat’s summer-league team. On Sunday, Winslow came off the bench and played a lot less with the ball in his hands — a role he will have to get adjusted to as he fits in with his teammates this preseason.
“For the most part [Sunday’s 90-77 loss to Charlotte] was just about getting adjusted to the game,” Winslow said Monday at AmericanAirlines Arena after the Heat held a practice for rookies and newcomers. “We’ve been scrimmaging, practicing, but it’s nothing like a real actual game. It’s just getting used to the pace, trying to get into the right spots defensively. For the most part, I did that. I got beat on a couple plays, but for me it was just about getting in the right spots offensively and defensively.”
Winslow said he felt comfortable on both ends of the floor in the preseason opener. Coach Erik Spoelstra praised the rookie for the work he did on the defensive end and stopped short of saying much about his offensive performance.
Winslow finished 2 of 9 from the field (his makes were a layup and a dunk). He scored nine points, grabbed two rebounds and two steals and dished out three assists in a team-leading 28-plus minutes of action. He missed six shots from 19 feet or more — an area the Heat wants to see Winslow improve.
In a five-second span before the half, Winslow displayed both how exciting and how much of a 19-year-old he still is when he threw down a monstrous dunk on a fast break and then fouled Kemba Walker on a three-pointer with 0.09 seconds left in the half. Still, there was nothing but positive reviews in the locker room afterward.
“He belongs,” Wade said Sunday of Winslow. “He just has to continue to get comfortable with what his role is going to be. Hopefully for him, it’s to master that role. But he can play in this league. He has the body for it. He has the talent, and he has the team around him that he doesn’t have to do too much. Like I said when he got drafted, this is the perfect situation for him.”
Wade said last week when the Heat were practicing at FAU what he likes most about Winslow — aside from his defensive skills — are the poise and demeanor Winslow has shown since his arrival. That, he says, counts for more.
“I wasn’t nervous when I was young. I was quiet, even keeled, no moment looked like it was too big or too small,” Wade said. “I think our demeanor is the same, more so than the style of play. He drives to the basket very well. But I don’t really think it’s exactly like mine.
“Having that demeanor is great for a young guy. Winning a national championship helps. Going to Duke University helps. People love to have a rookie like that, where the moment is not too big for them.”
Winslow, who replaced Luol Deng off the bench each time he entered the game Sunday late in the first and third quarters, said his goal this season is simply “to come in and be efficient.” Deng, a fellow Duke product, has been working with Winslow since his arrival, talking to him about the game and what the Heat wants from him.
“The speed [of the game Sunday] didn’t really bother me at all,” Winslow said. “I had one layup I should have made on the break, but I slowed down. But other than that, the speed and everything was fine.”