Justise Winslow, hoping to find his rhythm, will continue to come off Heat bench

The Heat's Justise Winslow drives to the basket as Pacers center Myles Turner defends during Miami's 95-89 victory Wednesday. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

The Heat’s Justise Winslow drives to the basket as Pacers center Myles Turner defends during Miami’s 95-89 victory Wednesday. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

 

MIAMI – Justise Winslow spent the last month arriving early to the Miami Heat’s facility and leaving late to assure his left wrist was getting its proper treatment and he wasn’t neglecting his conditioning.

So Thursday, the morning after Winslow returned to the court after missing a month of games, he kept the same routine.

“I’ve been coming here early, so I came early, worked out on the court, lifted weights and practiced,” Winslow said. “I’m so used to being here so early and doing a lot that I’m staying with it.”

Playing for the first time since Nov. 14, Winston logged 21 mostly tentative and rusty minutes in the Heat’s victory over Indiana Wednesday. He attempted just five shots, making one, and looked hesitant on a couple of outside jumpers.

But the Heat’s second-year forward believes his timing and rhythm will improve tonight when the Heat (9-17) host the Clippers (19-7). Tipoff is at 8 p.m.

“I didn’t really get in a rhythm so I don’t know that I could tell if I was rusty or not,” Winslow said about his return against the Pacers.

“I hope I can get in a better rhythm (Friday).”

Winslow came off the bench after starting nine games before his wrist, which was diagnosed as a sprain, forced him out of the lineup. Coach Erik Spoelstra said Thursday that Winslow would continue to work with the second unit, which includes Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson and James Johnson.

“I’m not going to overthink it, I don’t want him to overthink it,” Spoelstra said. “I’m going to continue to bring him off the bench right now but there’s nothing set in stone. Games will decide. Everything has to be earned. We’re looking for good, consistent rock-solid play.”

Winslow’s biggest contribution Wednesday came during the fourth quarter when he helped the Heat limit the Pacers to 10 points on 28 percent shooting. His biggest play was intercepting a Paul George pass for his lone steal of the game and feeding Tyler Johnson for a layup that gave Miami a three point lead.

“He gives us another physical presence, defender, play maker,” Spoelstra said. “You can put him in different areas of the floor he’ll find a way to make an impact. That kind of epitomizes what he does. Loose ball, deflection, it could be something entirely different the next play but he’s going to try to put his finger prints on the game in a winning fashion.”

This has been Spoelstra’s manta the entire season as he has tried to shift the focus from Winslow’s outside shooting, which has dipped to a shade over 33 percent.

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The Heat are counting on Winslow to be a major piece of this rebuilding process and for that to happen Winslow must improve his shooting. Too often this season opponents left him to sag into the paint and help out on Hassan Whiteside, knowing Winslow has lost confidence in his outside shot. The struggles could have been caused by the wrist, which Winslow originally injured early in the season.

But to Winslow’s credit he never used the injury as an excuse.  And James Johnson, for one, believes better days are ahead for Winslow.

“He played so well, calm and collected, that I didn’t realize when he was out of the game,” Johnson said. “He was in shape. He was moving the ball. He knew where to be on every play. It’s like he was at every practice with us and he hasn’t been.”

In fact, during the last two road trips Winslow hasn’t even been with his teammates, at least his healthy teammates, remaining in South Florida with the rest of the injured players to receive treatment and work on his conditioning.

“I’m in crazy shape,” he said.

At one point, the Heat had more players in Miami rehabbing injuries (five) than it had on the bench (four).

Instagram posts by teammates during the weekend showed Winslow wearing a bulky brace on his wrist, which had Heat fans wondering if the injury was more serious than what was being said and just how close Winslow was to returning.

But the brace is to stabilize the wrist and Winslow wears it whenever he is not on the court or working out. “I wear it to sleep,” he said. The wrist is taped when he plays.

As far as surgery, which Spoelstra mentioned this week as a remote possibility but something everyone is hoping to avoid, Winslow isn’t even going there.

“I don’t know what that word means,” he said. “I stay away from that word.

“They have to put me to sleep and I’m not doing all that. Maybe at another time but not right now.”

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