Miami Heat

Miami Heat’s Tyler Johnson closer to return during playoffs

Heat's Tyler Johnson talks about his improving health

Miami Heat guard Tyler Johnson said he's no longer experiencing soreness in his surgically repaired left shoulder during practice on April 25, 2016. He's pushing for a return during the playoffs.
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Miami Heat guard Tyler Johnson said he's no longer experiencing soreness in his surgically repaired left shoulder during practice on April 25, 2016. He's pushing for a return during the playoffs.

Tyler Johnson said Monday he’s no longer experiencing the same pain and discomfort in his surgically repaired left shoulder that he had been for weeks, and there’s a chance that if he continues to improve he could come off the inactive list and rejoin the Miami Heat during its playoff run.

“He still hasn’t done a full no holds barred contact [practice] yet,“ coach Erik Spoelstra said after shoot around Monday inside the Hornets practice facility. “[But] we’ll see. He’s probably pushing us into some discussions right now.”

The 6-4 combo guard, who was part of Miami’s rotation before he underwent surgery on Feb. 3 to repair the rotator cuff in the shoulder of his dominant shooting hand, was originally targeting a return at the end of the regular season. But every time he felt like he would take a step forward, the pain and soreness in his shoulder would return.

Monday, though, Johnson told trainer Jay Sabol and Spoelstra he was finally pain-free for two consecutive days. The next step for Johnson, it appears, is going through a full contact practice before the team clears him for a return.

Johnson, inactive for Game 4 on Monday night, said he doubts he would be cleared to return for Game 5 on Wednesday at AmericanAirlines Arena. But he left the door open for anything beyond that.

“I think more than anything it’s just a step forward today,” Johnson said. “We’ve been in kind of the same place for a while, just trying to figure out ways to get out the rest of the pain. And I think we’ve kind of found a routine that works.

“If this continues then I think we can start working toward maybe getting in there.”

Johnson still prefers to use his right hand when he makes cross-court passes in practice. But he said he has the strength in his left shoulder to make those passes in a game if he needs to and is trying to avoid irritating his surgically repaired shoulder for now.

“The contact wasn’t really the issue,” Johnson said. “It was more the overhead activities, going up and getting a rebound, fighting for one or blocking a shot or something like that. That was where I was having the most issues. [Sunday] and today I haven’t really felt that.”

ELITE COMPANY

Hassan Whiteside’s first venture into the playoffs has been a historical one – at least through the first three games.

The Heat’s starting center joined Hall of Famers Shaquille O’Neal, David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson as the only players in NBA history to total at least 50 points, 40 rebounds and five blocks through their first three postseason games.

“That’s some great company to be in,” Whiteside said. “Those are all Hall of Famers and guys I looked up to. Just doing something they did is always great.”

Whiteside is a little less fond of another Hall of Famer — Charles Barkley.

After saying in February Whiteside was “not even close to an All-Star” and that if “he played defense and got rebounds” the Heat would have had a better record in the first half of the season, Barkley, an analyst on TNT, complimented Whiteside by saying “he’s got so much potential. His upside is really, really high.”

Whiteside, though, wasn’t buying the new show of love.

“Chuck had some nice things to say about?” Whiteside responded when told what Barkley had said about him. “Am I on Punked? Is this Punked?

▪ Heat guard Gerald Green, the league’s 2007 Slam Dunk champion, entertained the media Monday at shootaround with a trick dunk. Green, 30, threw the ball high off the wall inside the Hornets practice facility, caught it off the bounce in stride and performed a windmill dunk.

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