Heat Check

With his point guard skills developing, Tyler Johnson sees Manu Ginobili-like role with Heat

dsantiago@elnuevoherald.com

In his quest to continue developing his playmaking skills, Tyler Johnson said he asked the Heat to provide video for him this summer of Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving, San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili and Houston’s James Harden so he could study how they attack in transition and off pick-and-rolls.

“Obviously, you’re not going to take their whole game and implement it into yours, but watching their pick-and-roll reads, looking at what they’re looking at and how they attack, it helps,” Johnson said earlier this week. “In transition, they’re not always going straight-up, body-to-body and just trying to out-athletic people. So I’ve seen how I can kind of finesse and then use my athleticism.”

Johnson, who entered Friday night’s preseason finale with 14 assists and only one turnover in 103 minutes, has been running the point in most Heat practices, coach Erik Spoelstra said, so he can “view the game in a different light.”

Last year when the Heat used Johnson at point guard to help fill in for an injured Goran Dragic he struggled. Then, he got injured and missed the final 33 games of the regular season following rotator cuff surgery in his left shoulder.

Johnson, who entered Friday’s game averaging 11.6 points per game this preseason, said the game is finally beginning to slow down for him when he’s at the point.

“The game is slowing down for him because he is so quick, so aggressive, gets into gaps — but he’s doing it with more thought now,” Spoelstra said. “He’s seeing the defense. He’s seeing what he can attack and let the game come to him while he’s still being himself.”

Although he started the first two games of the preseason at shooting guard, Johnson said he likes coming off the bench as a combo guard and thinks he can be an effective weapon for the Heat in much the same way Ginobili has been for many years with the Spurs.

“It gives me a chance to see the game; see how things are going, and then I can come in and kind of add my own,” he said. “If I need to inject energy or if I need to speed up the pace a little bit, I can do that.

“I don’t know what kind of style of play it really is, but we’re both awkward, wiry, lefties,” Johnson said of how he and Ginobili are similar. “We both favor the left hand, and everything we do is trying to get back to the left.”

STAYING POSITIVE

Josh Richardson said the one thing he has learned while sitting out the preseason with the first knee injury of his career is how important is to be patient. Out since Sept. 9 with a partially torn right medial collateral ligament, Richardson was hoping he might be able to return in time for the season opener.

It’s clear now that won’t happen. Richardson said in the meantime he’s been living vicariously through his NBA2K video game character.

“I’m not one to really get depressed about stuff or get upset about stuff,” Richardson said before Friday’s game against the 76ers. “I’ll be back when I’m back. I’m not really getting down on myself or anything.”

Richardson has been wearing a brace on his knee for several weeks and slowly increasing his court work. But he still hasn’t begun participating in contact drills with teammates, a clear sign his absence could stretch beyond next Wednesday’s season opener at Orlando.

“I went through walk through [Friday] but nothing full speed,” he said. “I was helping the team out, run through plays. Walk-through defense. Hopefully, [my comeback is] not too far out there.”

▪ Dragic said he appreciated the fact Spoelstra came to him before Thursday’s game in Charlotte to tell him there was nothing to the trade rumors involving him and Sacramento’s Rudy Gay.

“I’m glad he did,” Dragic said. “I told him I appreciate it. My brother, my family and friends were calling. It’s something less to worry about before the season starts.”

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