For Tyler Johnson, the secret to more success with the Miami Heat this season begins not with a trip to the dentist office or a barber shop.
It starts with quieting his mind.
“I’ve been doing a lot of mental training, a lot of meditation, a lot of things that seem – like – corny almost,” Johnson, 25, said Wednesday while still sporting the same gap-tooth smile and scraggly beard he proudly wore during the Heat’s 30-11 second half run last season.
“But it really helps to slow the game down, and helps me have a better understanding for what’s going on in the game,” he continued. “I think that’s probably the biggest thing I’ve been needing – the mental aspect of the game.
“I think physically I have the tools to be a really good player in this league. It’s just mentally staying with it. It’s such a long season. There’s going to be so many ups and downs, but all the great players talk about having that even-keel, not getting to high or two low on themselves. It’s something I’ve been working on.”
Johnson, who signed a four-year, $50 million deal 15 months ago when the Brooklyn Nets tried to creatively pry the 6-4, 190-pound combo guard away from the Heat with a heavily backloaded offer, found his niche last season in Miami.
In 73 games, all off the bench, he averaged 13.7 points on 43.3 percent shooting from the field and 37.2 percent from three-point range, led the Heat in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.59) and led all reserves in the league in minutes played (2,178). More importantly, he formed a dangerous 1-2 punch off the bench alongside James Johnson.
Both players on Wednesday were among nine players in the NBA to earn a vote from at least one of the other 29 general managers in the league for being the bench player who makes the biggest impact when he enters a game.
“It’s definitely an honor to be recognized by other people in your profession, outside of your team that say that you’re one of the best at your role. But, we weren’t doing it for recognition,” Tyler said. “It just happened to come with all of the hardwork we’ve put into it.”
Now, though, for Johnson, it’s all about the mental work he needs to put in.
Recently, Johnson says, Hailey Lott, a former classmate of his and the daughter of NFL Hall of Fame safety Ronnie Lott, introduced him to the art of meditation.
On Instagram, Lott’s daughter describes herself as a “Life Enthusiast Meditation Teacher and Yoga Instructor.” There’s a video of Hailey working with New York Jets defensive lineman Leonard Williams, who is quoted on her website as saying “Meditation with Hailey changed my game.”
Johnson said Hailey sends him “little five minute videos of guided meditation.” Johnson said he spends five minutes every morning meditating as soon as he wakes up.
“Most people first thing they do is check their phone or check their text messages or Instagram or whatever,” Johnson said. “But for me, I just take five minutes when I first get up to kind of play in my mind how I want the day to go.”
Later in the day, Johnson said, he’ll set aside about 30 minutes “to just be quiet and just not do anything, just breathing.”
“Like I said it sounds corny, but it actually is very peaceful,” Johnson said. “I’m probably going on a month doing it now. I’ve done it every day.”
Johnson, who said the Heat brought in its own medidation team during training camp last week, said he’s noticed “a huge difference” on the court since he’s started meditating every day.
“During the game, when you feel like your mind is starting to wander, you’re able to bring yourself back to the moment and to the next play,” Johnson said. “You’re not focused on negative self-talk. You’ve already practiced doing it off the court. So, during the game it’s a little bit easier.”