Barry Jackson

Tyler Johnson blunt after self-evaluation

Spoelstra said Heat in a good place mentally prior to start of season

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra talks at practice Monday, Oct. 16, 2017.
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Heat coach Erik Spoelstra talks at practice Monday, Oct. 16, 2017.

Some Heat talk as Wednesday’s opener at Orlando nears:

• Tyler Johnson is a certifiable bargain at $5.8 million last season and $5.8 million this season.

But whether his backloaded contract will be good value when its rises to $19.2 million next season, and the following one, rests largely on whether Johnson can eliminate some of the games where he felt he was off.

Johnson was one of the NBA’s top three bench scorers last season, averaging 13.2 points, improving his assist to turnover ratio to a career best (3.2 assists, 1.2 turnovers) and giving the Heat a spark in numerous games.

But as his volume of shots increased significantly, his field goal percentage dropped, from 48 percent in 2015-16 to 43.3 in 2016-17.

He hit 93 of 250 three-pointers, that 37.2 percentage solid, and down only slightly from 38 percent the previous year.

Johnson made clear he expects more from himself.

“I was able to put the ball in the basket but I could have done it at a higher efficiency,” Johnson said. “I could have shot a better percentage from the field and from three. I could have been a little bit more consistent.

“The games I was able to really produce we’re an even tougher team to beat. There were some games for whatever reason I couldn’t get it going. And I would start to try to change my game and it wasn’t working.”

Did he get more defensive attention with the new contract?

“It had to be my play because I’ve seen a lot of guys with big contract numbers, but it’s not like we game planned against them [because of the contract],” he said. “You see how guys start to play you. They try to take away specific plays. They make you go farther and farther into your bag. They are trying to take away tendencies.”

Johnson said Chris Bosh “told me I would go from fast to fast and had no change of pace in any part of my game. Coming in, I wish I would have understood what that meant.

“Now that I’ve gotten a little bit older, now I go from pretty fast to fast. I’m at least starting to slow down a little bit. I always wanted to push the tempo. I didn’t know when to slow it down. It’s understanding situations and timing.”

• Johnson says this team’s chemistry is real (and spectacular) and that it makes a tangible difference.

“This isn’t fake,” he said. “This is not just for show. It’s genuine love. It’s going to pick up [where they left off last year]. It’s not something we even question.

“The reason why we didn’t know each other at first last year was everyone kept a little to themselves because everyone came from different walks. We all had a similar story, guys who had been looked over a little bit or had been in the D-League at some point, a lot of guys who hadn’t yet made their mark in the league. That’s what allowed us to really gel. We by far had the best offseason in the NBA of being able to bring everybody back.”

• So what is this team, the team that went 11-30 in the first half or 30-11 in the second half?

“11-30 is gone,” Johnson said. “30-11 is insane. The fact we won 30 games in half a season is pretty remarkable.”

• ESPN’s panel of experts - Kevin Arnovitz, Amin Elhassan and Ramona Shelburne, The Undefeated's Marc J. Spears and FiveThirtyEight's Chris Herring - rate the Heat as the league’s 18th best team with a projected record of 43-39.

Meanwhile, ESPN’s complicated real/plus formula projects the Heat to win 45 games and finish fifth in the East, ahead of Toronto. That ESPN formula says Miami has a 99 percent chance to make the playoffs, with this comment:

“While the loss of Rodney McGruder to a stress fracture hurts Miami's depth, it means more minutes for players projected better by RPM (primarily Josh Richardson) and allowed the Heat to jump from seventh in average wins to fifth. Because all three teams are so close, that difference isn't especially meaningful, but the divergence from how CARM-Elo projects Miami (40 wins on average, eighth in the East) is.”

• Heat players emerged high on the upside of UCF guard Matt Williams, whose contract was converted to a two-way deal, with Miami retaining his rights.

“Matt Williams can really shoot,” said Wayne Ellington, who knows a thing or two about shooting. “He has a natural stroke. Once he learns things in the NBA, he's going to be a heck of a player.”

Please click here for my Monday Dolphins nuggets, including why players are wearing shirts saying ‘We are not normal.’ Please click here for why the Dolphins have reason to be optimistic. And please click here for news on Derek Jeter dumping more Marlins employees, and another payroll concern.

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