Barry Jackson

A Miami Heat banana boat? This is what Justise Winslow has in mind

A six-pack of Heat notes on a Tuesday:

The original Banana Boat had four legitimate NBA stars.

Justise Winslow has something else in mind for the Heat.

“We’re like a mini Banana boat,” he said of the Heat’s young core of himself, Josh Richardson, Bam Adebayo and Derrick Jones Jr. “We’re already talking about linking up, vacations, working out together. We’re like a mini Banana Boat. So we haven’t officially gotten Derrick in the ‘Hmm,’ but it’s in the works. “

(Hmm is the whimsical name of the group of young Heat players who hang out together and are part of a group text.)

Winslow believes this quartet can become pretty formidable, if they’re kept together.

“I think the best thing is that we just really complement each other’s games, the four of us,” he said. “A lot of what Golden State is doing or those type of teams, some of it is the coaching and the system, but a lot of it is you just can’t really guard those guys. So we just have to have guys get better. I think I’ve shown that a little bit, my abilities to improve over time. So has J-Rich, Bam and D-Jones.

“Tremendous strides with Bam this year, with his finishing and just his overall ability to put the ball in the hole. We saw glimpses of what D-Jones can do with his slashing ability and ability to finish around the basket and knocking down open threes now. We’ve all grown, the four of us, in our own way.”

Though Heat president Pat Riley said Saturday that teams still need superstars, Winslow said Friday:

“The dynamic is different. Golden State has their five. I don’t know what the Bucks have, but it’s working for them. What Houston has works for them. So you have to figure out what works for you. I think for our team, we’re a little different. Our young guys are two-dimensional players that really get after it on both ends. I think kind of a Denver type of approach -- they’re a young team that really stuck with their identity. They play hard on both ends of the floor and they were able to get the No. 2 seed this year in the West.

“That’s kind of the identity that I can see this team taking on. I would love to play faster next year, get out and run a little bit and use our athleticism. I’m just excited. I enjoy playing with these guys. That’s the main part. I’m excited for next year.”

The origins of the Banana Boat trace to a photo that surfaced of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and Wade’s wife Gabrielle Union on vacation in 2015. Carmelo Anthony, while not featured in the picture, was on vacation with them at the time, and is considered the fourth member of the Banana Boat Team. The four NBA superstars have been friends since they were children, and have consistently gone on vacation together.

In the summer of 2016, Wade posted on Snapchat that ‘The Banana Boys are reunited.’ Snapchat gave the group their own “Banana Boys” Snapchat filter.

The term “Banana Boat” has become a fun part of NBA lexicon since then.

I found this interesting: Riley said if some of the Heat’s young Heat players were re-drafted, “Josh [who was a second-round pick, 40th overall] would probably be a lottery pick [top 14] today. Derrick Jones Jr. [who went undrafted in 2016 was signed by Miami out of the G-League after a stint with Phoenix] would be considered probably a late first-round pick. So we’re happy with how we’ve acquired talent.”

The four young Heat players not only are going to need to further improve but also somehow compensate for what’s lost with Wade, with the Heat likely not in position to add a player comparable in ability to Wade with its $5.5 million taxpayer midlevel exception, money that possibly might go unused.

“Moving forward, myself and a few other guys on the team will have to step up, not only scoring and other things [Wade] does on the court, but being reliable on the court, off the court, being leaders, being vocal,” Richardson said. “I have tried to pay attention to how UD leads a lot because he’s very vocal. The things he says, everybody listens. That’s kind of how I want to be.”

Richardson said the fact that he has played without Wade before – when Wade was in Chicago in 2016-17 and Cleveland the first half of 2017-18 – will help.

“Ain’t no telling how we would have felt if he was here all four years and he was leaving for the first time,” Richardson said. “I can’t even fathom that. Us being able to play without him for a little bit of last year and the year before [helps]. We’re all older, wiser, better basketball players.”

It was interesting that Heat players cited injuries and lack of lineup stability as a primary reason for the team coming up short. That certainly was a factor, but that can’t mask other problems, too, such as lack of elite talent.

“You lose your All-Star guard for whatever it was, 50 games, it’s going to hurt,” Kelly Olynyk said of Goran Dragic. “Then we had other guys in and out of the lineups sporadically a lot of times. Not only missing guys, but now them trying to come back in and reassembling and all that kind of stuff, it’s difficult to do. Especially so many times during the year.”

And Richardson explained the offensive inefficiency this way: “A lot of it is having established roles. A lot of the year we had a lot of moving parts so nobody really knew our role. You can’t really blame anybody for that because it’s injuries. It’s hard to find a lot of continuity with so much in and out.”

The starting lineup the Heat ended up using most in the second half - Olnyk, Adebayo, Richardson, Winslow and Dion Waiters – ended up outscoring teams by 37 in 206 minutes.

“That lineup was good for us,” Richardson said. “It got our team off to a few good starts. I’m optimistic about it.”

When Dragic replaced Winslow (injured at the time) in that lineup, that five man group of Olynyk, Adebayo, Richardson, Dragic and Waiters was a plus four in 35 minutes.

There seemingly remains untapped potential for Jones Jr. because of his athleticism.

“Derrick, I would like to see him – and he will after a summer of work – really look like Scottie Pippen,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He has that kind of frame. It’s a matter of just fine-tuning it, and Pat Riley says all the time, world-class shape.”

Jones must improve his 30.8 percent three-point shooting and 60.7 percent free throw shooting.

“I think he’ll be a mid-70s free throw shooter the way he works at it and a couple of minor things that Quinnie and Rob [assistant coaches Chris Quinn and Rob Fodor] will help him with this summer,” Spoelstra said. “He already improved his three-point shooting from basically nonexistent to 31 percent. Now you’re a stone’s throw away from getting to 35, 36 or 37. We’ve done that before. It’ll take a monster summer of work, but he’s committed to that.”

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