Barry Jackson

What led to James Johnson’s resurgence. And Wade’s donation makes a difference.

Miami Heat forward James Johnson signals a three-pointer against Denver on Monday. Johnson is playing perhaps his best basketball of the season.
Miami Heat forward James Johnson signals a three-pointer against Denver on Monday. Johnson is playing perhaps his best basketball of the season. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

INDIANAPOLIS – So what was the spark that helped ignite James Johnson in recent weeks and has him now resembling the aggressive, fill-the-box-score weapon that impressed everyone last season?

Johnson cited a meeting with coach Erik Spoelstra and specifically, what Spoelstra showed him on tape.

Johnson hadn’t watched any tape of his outstanding 2016-17 season until that day several weeks ago.

Spoelstra showed him clips of Johnson at his best last season.

That, Johnson said, was enough to remind him of the player he could be when he consistently plays with an edge and a “doggish” verve.

"It had nothing to do with offense," Johnson said of the conversation and tape viewing with Spoelstra. "It was my killer instinct and my doggish ways on the defensive end. That really inspired me, opened my eyes. It enabled me to become the offensive player I've become."

When Johnson plays like that, it "not only [sparks me] emotionally, but it gets our team going and inspiring plays get the next guy wanting to make an inspiring play and from there you just lose yourself in the game."

Is that meeting with Spoelstra one reason why Johnson has played so well recently?

"Absolutely. Absolutely," Johnson said. "It's all about learning what the team needs."

Johnson is averaging 11.4 points, 4.5 rebounds and shooting 55.7 percent from the field in 15 games since the All-Star break.

He averaged 10.5, 4.9 and 48.6 before.

But those numbers don’t reflect the full extent of the uptick in Johnson’s play in recent weeks.

He had 31 points and 11 rebounds against Denver on Monday and 23 points Friday in Oklahoma City.

"He's been playing better for a while," Spoelstra said late Friday night.

"But it always starts with J.J. with his approach, his habits, his behavior, his leadership -- all of that behind the scenes. Once he gets all those things rolling in the right direction, his performance starts to trend that way, as well. He's been checking all those other boxes and being really the spirit and heartbeat for this group. And sometimes that means scoring, but a lot of times that means facilitating, screening, creating. You saw his versatility tonight, he had to guard one through five and also play the five for us offensively at the end."

WADE IMPACT

Dwyane Wade was heartened Saturday when he watched TV coverage of the "March of Our Lives" in Washington.

When Wade met with students at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas in the wake of the shooting that left 17 dead, the students told him of their objective to use Saturday’s march in Washington and across the country to bring attention to gun violence.

Wade and wife Gabrielle Union donated $200,000 to pay for Chicago students to attend.

"What I was excited about was the kids from Parkland understood their 'voice' and understood that they were speaking for more than just Parkland," Wade said Saturday after practice at BankersLife Fieldhouse. "That was some of the things we had conversations about, their meetings with Chicago, about the things I was trying to do in the city of Chicago, as well.

"So it's great, not only that we got an opportunity to send kids from Chicago to D.C., but they get an opportunity to not only be a part of the march, but let their voices be heard. It's a great day from the standpoint of our future and current leaders taking a stand in what they believe in and doing something about it."

During his visit to Stoneman Douglas, it became clear to Wade to that "they wanted to make this big. And there was a short period of time to do it. Looking at the coverage, it seemed liked the goal was accomplished.

"The message, especially for youth, is to get them to understand their power, the voice and the power of their vote, as well. And I know they talked about that today, that we have to get our kids out to vote, to understand the power that they have. The magnitude was great."

The issue of gun violence is a deeply personal one for Wade.

“I think for me and I think for most of us, when something happens to our family members, that's when we really feel it, when we really get behind it," he said. "You know, I lost two family members to gun violence. So this is not an issue that I'm jumping behind because I think it's a cool issue to jump behind.

"It's something that affected my family last year, when I lost my cousin in Chicago. I'm glad that the conversation has started. And we know, just like everyone else knows, it doesn't end here. This is only the beginning, so I look forward to being part of more of it."

WHITESIDE OUT

The Heat is listing center Hassan Whiteside as out for Sunday’s game at Indiana. It will be the eighth consecutive game Whiteside misses with a strained hip flexor.

• Goran Dragic sat out Saturday’s practice because of a knee bruise but said he won’t miss any games.

"It's nothing serious," he said. "I've been dealing with this for quite a bit, like the last three weeks. When you play through it, it sometimes just swells up. It's weird, especially when you have games back to back and a lot of games. It's kind of sore."

Dragic said he wouldn’t want to rest the knee even if the Heat is locked into a playoff spot because "I feel like I'm a good rhythm. I would still play. That's how I'm wired. So I think that's the best way handle it."

• Justise Winslow said he might go to San Antonio for the NCAA championship on April 2 if Duke advances. The Heat is off that night and plays host to Atlanta on April 3.

Here’s my Saturday morning post with more Heat nuggets, including what the Heat has to say about a Pacers team that has surprised everyone.

Here’s my six-pack of Saturday Dolphins notes, including kickers they like and a safety they summoned to team headquarters.  

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

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