DENVER – Tyler Johnson always has been reluctant to wear a mouth guard, even after having three teeth knocked out during his career dating back to college.
But one thing has persuaded him.
“I missed a game,” the Heat guard said. “I can’t miss games because I’m missing teeth.”
So tonight during the start of Miami’s three-game road trip in Denver, Johnson will be wearing a thin, black guard in a game for the first time.
Johnson had oral surgery Monday and missed the Heat’s home loss to the Celtics. He had an upper tooth knocked out a week ago in Detroit and had a broken post replaced by a temporary that one day will hold an implant. The surgery then required stitches in his gums. The tooth he lost last week was an implant having lost the adult tooth in college.
Johnson also lost a lower tooth during summer league.
Johnson, who said the area that was worked on Monday remains sore, never has worn protection for his teeth. He said it has affected his breathing and he found it difficult to talk.
But. … “Ultimately we can’t force everybody to wear every piece of protection (but) he was strongly encouraged,” coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Considering Denver is one-mile above sea level, this is not the ideal spot to test it out with the thin air already making it more difficult to breathe. But Johnson wore the mouth piece during today’s shoot around and had little problems. He likes that it’s thinner than any he has ever tried.
“It’s a little bit thinner, it doesn’t take up as much space so I can still breathe through my nose,” he said. “It was a lot easier than I thought with this one. I had it in the whole practice it was cool, it was easy. We’ll see how it goes tonight.
“I figure if I can play here I can probably play most places.”
Spoelstra said his top reserve will “have to work through it.”
“It’s to the point right now he has to wear something,” Spoelstra said. “There’s an awkward stage at first you just used to it.”