James Johnson

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Jimmy Butler (personal reasons), James Johnson (‘Coach’s Decision-Conditioning’) out for Heat opener

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The Heat very much have their own way of doing things.

That’s why they acquired Jimmy Butler and his unique personality. That’s also why the banished James Johnson for much of training camp due to conditioning issues.

Johnson eventually joined Miami, but neither player will participate in today’s opener against the Grizzlies.

Ira Winderman of the South Florida SunSentinel:

The Heat are counting on Butler to lead them this season. But they still have a capable lead guard in Goran Dragic. Hotshot rookie Tyler Herro could also get a bigger role tonight. (Another scoring guard, Dion Waiters, is suspended.)

As for Johnson, that’s a harsh label for his absence considering he met the conditioning requirements to enter training camp. He didn’t play in the preseason, and that might have factored in sitting him tonight. But the Heat could’ve described this with softer words. Instead, they appear to be trying to motivate him through public pressure (and maybe send a message to future Miami players).

It’s the type of blunt assessment Butler would probably love.

In the meantime, the Heat host the young Grizzlies. Miami still has a good chance to win this game.

Heat suspend Dion Waiters for season opener over conduct

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MIAMI (AP) — Shooting guard Dion Waiters has been suspended by the Miami Heat for their season opener against Memphis on Wednesday night for what was described as “conduct detrimental to the team.”

“There were a number of unacceptable incidents this week, culminating with his unprofessional conduct on the bench last night,” Heat President Pat Riley said in a statement Saturday night. “As a consequence, I feel we had to suspend him.”

Waiters got into a discussion with Heat coach Erik Spoelstra during Friday night’s game, though the Heat did not specifically address what any of the incidents were. Waiters has seemed frustrated that some of his minutes are going to rookie Tyler Herro (who has impressed this preseason).

Waiters played only 10 minutes in Friday night’s preseason finale – nine players got more, not even including Jimmy Butler, who got the night off for rest. Waiters averaged 14.3 minutes per game in four preseason appearances.

Waiters is the second player to face publicly announced punishment from the Heat already this season. James Johnson was not permitted to attend training camp because his level of conditioning was not at the team’s standards, and returned to practice late in the preseason.

Waiters is entering his fourth season with the Heat. He’s missed 126 of a possible 246 games over the last three years, largely because of ankle injuries and a subsequent surgery on his foot and ankle.

Waiters averaged 12 points last season in 44 games. The Heat said he will be permitted to return to the team on Thursday.

 

James Johnson hits weight goal, is back on practice floor with Miami Heat

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“The Miami Heat announced today that James Johnson will miss the beginning of camp because he fell short of our conditioning requirements. Once he fulfills and maintains those requirements, he will rejoin the team.”

That was the statement the Heat put out the first day of training camp, although Johnson’s agent later clarified the issue was Johnson didn’t hit a weight goal, it was not his conditioning. Johnson has now hit that goal and is back with the team.

Here is what Johnson told reporters, via David Wilson of the Miami Herald.

“Day 1 of earning my respect back,” Johnson said after practice. “That’s the only emotion I had is earn my respect back.”

If Johnson were in his first year in Miami, missing the first half of camp and the preseason might be an issue. However, as a veteran in their system coach Eric Spoelstra said he doesn’t expect it to slow Johnson much.

“The fast-tracking has been the three years that he’s been with us. It’s not a shock to him what our system is,” Spoelstra said. “We have practice time to be able to get it done, but it’s good to have him back out here. Like I said, it’s hopefully behind us now. We have some practice opportunities over the next couple of days and three more preseason games to get everybody on the same page.”

Johnson has battled injuries the two seasons he’s been in Miami, he’s hoping this season to be healthy and contribute to a team looking to make some noise after the addition of Jimmy Butler this summer.

Reports: Thunder GM to meet with Chris Paul, help trade him to preferred destination

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Chris Paul is ultra-competitive, wants to win right now, and is getting older (and his game shows it).

That does not fit with Oklahoma City’s rebuilding plan — it has stockpiled so many picks Danny Ainge feels bettered —  so Thunder GM Sam Presti is expected to sit down with Paul and his agent to come up with a plan to get the future Hall of Fame point guard where he wants to be, according to multiple reports.

One complication is the three-years, $124 million Paul is owed. Heat have the salaries to match and make this work — Goran Dragic, James Johnson, Dion Waiters — and the Thunder have the picks to send East if they want. The challenge is the Thunder are $3.7 million into the luxury tax and want to shed salary, while the Heat are hard-capped after the Jimmy Butler sign-and-trade and are up against that number, they can’t take on salary.

One way or another expect the Thunder to make a move, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks notes, and don’t even think about a buyout because OCK as an organization does not want dead money on its books (which is what a buyout would leave them).

It will not be easy, but expect Paul to be traded again long before next season starts. And expect him to have a big game when he faces Houston.

Report: Thunder asked Heat to trade two of Tyler Herro, Bam Adebayo, Justise Winslow for Russell Westbrook

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People around the NBA reportedly considered it inevitable the Thunder will trade Russell Westbrook to the Heat.

Those people should hold their horses.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald:

At another point in the discussions this week, the Thunder asked the Heat to include two among Herro, Bam Adebayo and Justise Winslow, according to a source in touch with one of the two teams. The Heat also is opposed to including Adebayo, whom Erik Spoelstra ranked among the best centers in the league in the final months of last season.

Though the Heat very much would like to add Westbrook, OKC’s demands have resulted in a stalemate in conversations as of Wednesday evening.

Westbrook is 30, already showing signs of decline and owed $171,139,920 over the next four years. He no longer fits in Oklahoma City, which appears ready to rebuild after trading Paul George primarily for draft picks.

The Thunder can ask for a lot of return. They probably won’t get it.

The Heat probably view Adebayo as alone too valuable to include in any Westbrook trade construction. They also just signed Herro to his rookie-scale contract, meaning he can’t be traded for 30 days. That seems like a message to Oklahoma City. Winslow, a solid player who’s still trying to find his lane and is young enough to develop further, makes most sense in a deal. He’s the highest-paid of the three, and aggregating enough salary to match Westbrook’s and stay below the hard cap will be challenge.

The big question: When will the Thunder reduce their demands?

Miami still looks like frontrunners to get Westbrook. But that could change if Westbrook begins the season in Oklahoma City. More teams could enter discussions Dec. 15, when most players signed this summer will become eligible to be traded. Miami’s current advantage is having so many expensive players – Goran Dragic, James Johnson, Kelly Olynyk, Dion Waiters and Winslow – to deal now.

The Heat must still appease the Thunder, and that’ll apparently take some tough negotiating.