Barry Jackson

Another Heat starter reveals he might not be ready for start of regular season

Dion Waiters isn’t the only Heat starter who might not be ready for the start of the season.

Heat forward James Johnson, who had surgery to repair a sports hernia in May, said Monday that he hasn’t been cleared for contact work and isn’t certain that he will be ready for the Oct. 17 regular-season opener at Orlando, though he remains hopeful.

“That’s my goal,” he said of being ready for the start of the season. “My goal would be back before that first game, try to get a couple preseason games in.... I am not going to push nothing I’m not supposed to push. A setback would be the same as going back for surgery, I believe.”

Asked when he might be cleared for contact work, he said: “I wish I knew the answer to that. I can’t veer off from this path they’ve got us on. I have to stay humbled and stay patient.”

He said in order to be cleared for contact work, “I’m sure they [Heat doctors] definitely have to see a physical part of that. It’s hard for me. It’s definitely hard. It will be hard not to do every drill with all of my soldiers. This day came too fast for me. I’ve got guys preparing for war every day and I’m sidelined.”

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Johnson is “not 100 percent full-go. But he’s pretty close. Just don’t ask him because he’ll be begging to get in those scrimmages on that first day. I don’t know if he’s ready for that right now. But he will be participating in every practice and he’ll be doing whatever he can handle based on whatever [trainer Jay Sabol] thinks is right. We’ll scale it up, but he’s going to be a green light that first day. It’s a matter of how much.”

Johnson said he sustained the injury on Jan. 31 against Cleveland.

“That’s when I definitely went back to the locker room during the game and put on different tights to compress that area,” he said. “I thought it was just a strain. I didn’t know what to call it. At first it wasn’t even that terrible. As the season went on, a little bit of my abilities started to go with it.”

He indicated he didn’t tell Heat officials much about the injury until the season was over.

“I didn’t want to take a chance that they would tell me I couldn’t play the rest of the season,” he said. “So I spoke minimal about that.”

Asked how much the injury hindered him last season, he said: “I don’t know. I went out there and played and that’s end of story. If it wasn’t adequate, that’s on me. I’m preparing to be better this year.”

Meanwhile, Waiters is likely to miss the start of the season as he recovers from January ankle surgery, the Heat announced last week.

Waiters, who wasn’t made available for comment at Heat media day on Monday, has spoken previously of the surgery requiring an 8 to 10 month recovery period. If he takes 10 months, he would be back around Nov. 22.

“He didn’t have a setback,” Spoelstra said. “He’s actually on course. Everybody’s body is different. He’s been working all summer. You probably noticed his Instagram posts, that’s how everybody follows players now. It hasn’t been like he hasn’t been working. It’s on course. He’ll be back when his body tells him that he can be back.

“The thing I’m encouraged by is he’s able to work, he’s on the court, he’s able to do stuff. He won’t be able to participate in the type of training camp that we’re going to be starting with. But we’ll continue to monitor him. He’ll be with us.”

Johnson is entering the second year of a four-year, $60 million contract, while Waiters is beginning the second season of a four-year, $52 million deal.

Here’s everything notable that Spoelstra and Dwyane Wade said in news conferences on Monday morning.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

Related stories from Miami Herald