Dwyane Wade can’t seem to say enough good things about Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson.
But at the same time, the 12-time All-Star is making sure the Heat’s rookies aren’t getting overconfident because of what they’ve done for the team lately.
“Right now they’re Rook 1 and Rook 2. That’s their names,” Wade said Wednesday after practice, noting Winslow and Richardson won’t shed those nicknames he gave them until after the season.
“I heard [Richardson] say the other day he wasn’t a rookie [anymore]. So now, I’ve got to bring him back down to rookie life.”
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When Wade and Udonis Haslem were rookies in 2003-04, Wade said the team’s veterans didn’t give either of them a nickname. Wade said the hazing was pretty light.
“We just had to get coffee every now and again,” Wade said laughing. “And then once I started playing a lot of minutes, UD had to get the coffee. Then when UD started playing a lot it was over.
“It was a little different. Our veterans were real nice on us. But we were different rookies as well. Me and UD were quiet. We stayed out of the way. Our rookies talk a lot. They’re all in our face all the time. We’ve got to keep them humble. We were already humble.”
What do Winslow and Richardson have to do for Miami’s current vets? Carry luggage at the airport, fetch towels and Gatorade, or make runs to the store to pick up what the veterans want.
“I can’t tell you what they make us do, man,” Richardson said with a smile Wednesday after practice. “It will only make it worse.”
Richardson, 22, has led the league in three-point shooting since the All-Star break (62.9 percent) and averaged 11.2 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.4 steals over his past 11 games since backup point guard Beno Udrih was lost for the season.
Winslow, 19, ranks fourth in the league among rookies in minutes played (1,828), third in plus/minus (+86) and since the break has averaged 9 points, 6 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.4 steals while shooting better (47.2 percent) from the field.
“It hasn’t been easy for me,” Winslow said. “I had a pretty good role to start. Josh has kind of grown into his. He’s starting to find his niche where he’s successful for our team.”
I can’t tell you what they make us do, man. It will only make it worse.
Collectively, Winslow and Richardson have been as dangerous as any rookie combination in the league since the All-Star break. In fact, only five other teams — the 76ers, Nuggets, T’Wolves, Lakers and Knicks — have put rookies on the court for more minutes than the Heat have this season.
Wade said that is partially due to the trust Winslow and Richardson have earned from the veterans, particularly on defense. Wade said Winslow has looked like a 10-year veteran at times. Wade called Richardson’s growth “remarkable” and noted that his confidence “is at another level.”
“It’s great to have those guys,” Wade said. “I haven’t been a part of that [having two rookies become trusted parts of the rotation] since I’ve been here. The last time it was like that was probably when me and Udonis were rookies here — when they could rely on us. It’s kind of cool. I kind of see what Eddie Jones and Brian Grant and those guys were going through and feeling when we were rookies.”
While Wade may feel that way, the truth is he’s short-changing a pair of rookies who came after him and Haslem. That would be Mario Chalmers and Michael Beasley, who rank second all-time among Heat rookie classes in combined win-shares (8.6) behind only Wade and Haslem (9.4).
After the Heat’s inaugural team, which featured rookies Grant Long, Kevin Edwards and Rony Seikaly, and the one right after that had rookies Sherman Douglas and Glen Rice, Chalmers and Beasley combined to play more minutes (4,635) than any other rookie class in Heat history, including Wade and Haslem, who were fifth behind Caron Butler and Rasual Butler in 2002-03.
Chalmers not only ranked second all-time among Heat rookies in assists (4.9) and first in steals (2.0) he’s also the only Heat rookie to start all 82 games in a season. Beasley missed only one game and his 13.9 points and 5.4 rebounds rank fourth and fifth, respectively, all-time among Heat rookies.
Winslow and Richardson, entering Thursday’s game against the Hornets, have combined to play 2,463 minutes and have 3.5 win shares between them, sixth-most among Heat rookie classes.
No Heat player has ever won rookie of the year. The only players to make the All-Rookie first team are Douglas (1990), Steve Smith (1992), Caron Butler (2003), Wade (2004) and Beasley (2009).