Barry Jackson

Late nights in the gym are helping this Heat guard get out of his shooting slump

Miami Heat guard Tyler Johnson (8) steals the ball during the Oct. 30 Minnesota game.
Miami Heat guard Tyler Johnson (8) steals the ball during the Oct. 30 Minnesota game. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

Some Heat notes on a Friday:

▪ Tyler Johnson has begun to shake out of a puzzling shooting slump that had seen his field-goal percentage drop from 48.6 percent in 2015-16 (the season before he got the four-year, $50 million contract) to 43.3 last season to 36.2 as of a week ago.

But Johnson is now up to 38.5 percent from the field after going 5 for 11, 5 for 7, 4 for 10 and 9 for 12 in his past four games, while averaging 15.8 points in that stretch. He also hit 11 for 23 threes in those four games, raising his season average to 34.6 percent.

Credit Johnson for multiple late nights in the gym in the past couple of weeks.

He said he was at AmericanAirlines Arena until 12:30 a.m. one night earlier this week, working on his shot. 

“That’s why I am trending in the right direction,” he said before leaving on the three-game road trip that began in San Antonio on Wednesday. “I am getting back in the gym and not being like it’s going to fix itself. I’m really being proactive about it.”

Johnson said he has felt no need to change his mechanics.

“The last thing you want to do if you run into a little bit of trouble is going away from what you know,” he said. “It’s not a matter of changing mechanics. It’s just finding better shots to shoot more than anything.

“On top of that, knowing when to be aggressive and drive instead of settling to shoot. I try to stay away from [worrying about shooting percentage] because I know it’s all going to even out. I know career I’m [36.3] percent on threes, so whatever I am shooting this year, I couldn’t care less because I know it’s going to even out. It’s already starting to feel like back to normal.”

Johnson said “for sure people are closing out more on me [on his jumper] than they used to. But I don’t think that has to do with the percentage. It’s me finding a better rhythm of when to shoot and when to be more aggressive.”

The Johnson of the past week must be what the Heat consistently gets from Johnson to justify a back-loaded contract that will pay him $19 million next season and the season after.

▪ Though much of the focus has been on Justise Winslow’s shot — which was improving before a 2-for-9 game against the Spurs on Wednesday — this shouldn’t be overlooked, either:

Winslow said he’s not defending as well as he needs to, and coach Erik Spoelstra challenged him in that area this week.

“I still think he can get to another level, particularly defensively, making a lot more plays and being more active, more disruptive,” Spoelstra said.

Players guarded by Winslow are shooting 47.9 percent, compared with 46.7 percent overall.

Asked whether he’s defending as well as he wants, Winslow said: “Not at all. Just slowly trying to get back to the kind of guy I was my rookie year. Trying to get more steals, more deflections, get some easy buckets for the team.”

Any theory why he’s not defending as well? “No. Still trying to figure it out. It’s more of a mental thing, not really physical.”

He doesn’t believe his weight loss is a factor and said he hasn’t felt overwhelmed defensively against any bigger-bodied power forward. And he did good work defending Minnesota’s Karl Anthony Towns recently.

▪  Kelly Olynyk’s minutes per game (20.5) are on par with his career average.

But when Hassan Whiteside returns from injury, Olynyk hopes Spoelstra revisits the idea of playing Whiteside and Olynyk together at times.

They haven’t played together since a 10-minute stint on opening night, with Spoelstra citing the league’s movement toward smaller, quicker lineups.

“If Hassan is playing over 30 minutes a game, that doesn’t leave a lot of minutes to everybody else,” Olynyk said, with Bam Adebayo and himself both eager for those remaining minutes.

He said he believes his and Whiteside’s games “complement each other,” and he has spoken to Spoelstra earlier this season about playing them together again.

Whiteside remains out indefinitely with a bone bruise on his left knee. Olynyk started Wednesday’s game in Whiteside’s absence.

Here’s my six-pack of Dolphins personnel notes from Friday, including a problem that has arisen in advance of Monday’s game against New England.

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