Heat guard Tyler Johnson said Tuesday that he’s happy most of the Heat team that finished the season on a 30-11 run has been retained.
“I remember [Pat] Riley telling us after the trade deadline he wanted to keep the team together just to give us a chance,” Johnson said during a visit with Heat academy campers at Miami-Dade’s Kendall campus. “He wanted to give us the opportunity to compete and try to make the playoffs. Obviously we fell short of that goal, but with the way that team was headed and the way we bonded and the way things have been going this summer, all I was hoping for during free agency was that we brought back the guys who were in the trenches last season.”
He said he sees no reason why Miami can’t crack the top four in the East.
“We know what we’re capable of,” he said. “If we continue building on the habits we picked up last season, we know we will be in every single game we play. Who’s to say we couldn’t crack that top four?”
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Johnson addresed other issues:
• He said hunger won’t be an issue even with Dion Waiters and James Johnson receiving substantial contracts, one year after he signed for four years and $50 million.
“I know that the character of the guys on our team isn’t, ‘OK, now everybody feels comfortable,’ “ Johnson said. “I think that they’re going to prove that they kind of have the chip on their shoulder that I had, was that, ‘Now, I’m going to prove that I’m worth it.’”
• On newcomer Kelly Olynyk: “I know I hated played against him,” he said. “I’m assuming that he’s one of those guys that you hate to play against but you love to have on your team. I saw how important he was to that Boston squad. So I think he’ll be a good fit for this team.”
• Though he loved coming off the bench with close friend James Johnson, he said he would be fine if J.J. starts.
“I felt comfortable that no matter who we come off the bench with, we’ll be just as much of a problem as we were last year,” Tyler Johnson said. “But it would be cool to do Johnson & Johnson again. It was something that I hadn’t really experienced as far as having that type of chemistry with another teammate, where we played off of each other so much. It was awesome.”
• Johnson said he will continue to develop his ball-handling skills, with Heat president Pat Riley previously having said he feels no need to add a prototypical backup point guard.
“I obviously, you want to get better every year,” he said. “I’m not necessarily worried about, ‘Oh, I’ve got to be more of a playmaker or try to change my game.’ All I’m trying to do is just get better in the things that that I already bring to the team. And in doing that, I think you’ll see my game develop as I continue to play.”
• On first-round pick Bam Adebayo: “I didn’t realize how versatile he was,” he said. “He was pushing the floor, grabbing rebounds, and leading the break. I wasn’t expecting that, especially for a guy as big as he is. So that kind of caught me off guard, and then his athleticism. I was surprised. And how mature he was at 19.”
• He said not only did players take the unusual step of gathering for workouts in May and June, but at least five have been at AmericanAirlines Arena this month.
“With the way I’ve seen this summer go, guys holding each other accountable already, it’s something that I haven’t experienced,” Johnson said. “Now we’re pushing each other to be better every single day in summer time.”
Johnson told campers he lost seven teeth over the course of his basketball career. He still hasn’t replaced a prominent one in the front.
“I don’t know,” he said about replacing that one. “My mom’s been pushing me, too. So I think she might be the one to finally get me to get one... I don’t see why it’s necessary right now, because I’m sure eventually it’s going to get knocked out again. I mean, if I play 10 years in the NBA, I’m pretty sure I’m going to lose it two, three more times. So if I leave it out now, then I just got to get one.”
Here’s my post with lots of chatter from UM’s opening day of football practice Tuesday.