Heat Check

Heat has faith Josh Richardson will find his shooting stroke again

Miami Heat guard Josh Richardson reacts in the fourth quarter of the team’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Thursday, December 22, 2016.
Miami Heat guard Josh Richardson reacts in the fourth quarter of the team’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Thursday, December 22, 2016. pportal@miamiherald.com

Josh Richardson shot 53.3 percent from three-point range after the All-Star break last season, the best three-point shooting percentage in the league by any player to hoist at least 50 three-pointers over the final two-plus months of the regular season.

He’s having a much rougher go his second season in the league.

At least there’s a viable excuse for why: He’s trying to play with a banged up shooting wrist. Richardson says he feels a sharp pain on the side of his wrist every time he shoots the ball.

“It's tough to follow through,” said Richardson, who is shooting 37.3 percent from the field (101st among 109 guards averaging at least 20 minutes a game this season) and 30.8 percent from three-point range (90th out 109).

“I'm kind of short-arming it.”

Richardson, though, is trying to soldier through the discomfort. With veteran Wayne Ellington out (he’s missed 20 games now this season), Richardson has made 13 starts this season and tried to provide the Heat with what he can while trying to work through the shooting woes.

He’s averaging 10.1 points per game, 3.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists (1.3 turnovers per game) and holding the players he’s guarding to 6.2 percent below their normal shooting percentage (37.3 percent overall), the third-best differential on the team behind only James Johnson (9.7 percent) and Dion Waiters (6.9 percent).

“He’s got some good looks – I’m not going to overreact to that,” coach Erik Spoelstra said when asked about Richardson’s shot selection this season.

“We all want to see him continue to get a better rhythm, better flow and understand, which he does, how many different ways he can impact a game. Sometimes you get a possession momentum changing block or one on one defensive stop. A lot times that can get you in rhythm in other areas in a game. I don’t want him just to be thinking how he can impact the game with his shooting or whatever people think they want him to be right now. He’s multi-dimensional player, two-way player. When he’s at his best, he’s making momentum-changing defensive plays and he’ll get back to that.

“He’s not going to make excuses [for the wrist] and I’m not going to make excuses. He can make left-handed blocks, contest, steals, deflections all with his left hand. Like I said, when he’s his best, he’s one of the more unique two way defenders in this league.”

Richardson has been wearing tape and occasionally a brace to help support his shooting his wrist before, during and after games. After missing the first four games of the season and all of training camp with a sprained MCL in his right knee, Richardson said he injured his wrist in his first home game back against the Chicago Bulls on Nov. 10 when he tripped and fell. He also missed six other games from Nov. 30 to Dec. 9 with a sprained ankle.

“I never got hurt before [this season],” he said. “I feel like once one thing in my body got hurt, everything else has. It’s been that kind of vibe.”

Point guard Goran Dragic said he’s going to continue to feed Richardson in his spots until he finally starts knocking the shots down again.

“He's taking good shots,” Dragic said. “We want him to take those shots. We encourage him. In the end, even if you’re missing a lot of shots, it’s still good shots. We know he’s not missing on purpose. Nobody does.

“He’s got some issues with the wrist, but I feel like he's mentally strong and he's going to work through that. He's got the full support of me and all of this team. We know what he's capable of doing.”

MORE WORK FROM THE LINE

Center Hassan Whiteside wasn’t with his teammates Monday afternoon when practiced finally wrapped up.

He was downstairs inside AmericanAirlines Arena working on his free throws, where he said he made 88 out of 100.

“I’ve got to get better. I’m shooting under 60 percent,” said Whiteside, who shot 75 percent after the All-Star break last season from the foul line but is shooting 53.2 percent this season, 31st among the 42 centers in the league averaging at least 20 minutes game.

“It’s when the adrenaline gets to pumping and the extra game strength comes into play,” Whiteside explained of why he’s struggled at the line this season. “That’s what I’ve got to control.”

Despite his free throw woes, the league’s leading rebounder has been the Heat’s iron man this season. He’s the only player who has been healthy and available for all 31 games thus far. It hasn’t been easy on his body, Whiteside conceded.

“I’ve been banged up some games,” he said. “Some of my worst games I’ve been more hurt than others. I think that’s the one thing fans don’t understand, that guys are playing through injuries. It’s been a lot of days I haven’t been feeling well. I tried to go out there and out-do myself last game, which is not easy.”

Whiteside said he does “too much to name” to help his body recover after games.

“It’s hours and hours of just trying to get your body right,” he said. “I’m pretty much home all day. People in Miami don’t see me. I’m pretty much home all day.”

▪ Spoelstra said Ellington, who has missed four consecutive games with a strained right hamstring, and Rodney McGruder, who has missed three games in a row with a sprained left ankle, both practiced on Monday.

Dion Waiters, who hasn’t played since Nov. 26, still has not practiced but is “on a good timeline,” Spoelstra said.

 
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