Heat guard Tyler Johnson clears all hurdles, will play tonight vs. Nets

Heat guard Tyler Johnson missed six games because of a strained left shoulder. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Heat guard Tyler Johnson missed six games because of a strained left shoulder. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

MIAMI – Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has a problem. But it’s a pleasant problem, one that he will welcome and one he wished he had much earlier in the season.

Tyler Johnson is available tonight after missing six games with a strained left shoulder. Goran Dragic remains the player who is driving the Heat and Dion Waiters was named the Eastern Conference’s Player of the Week. Oh, and Wayne Ellington is heating up, averaging 18.3 points and shooting better than 51 percent in his last three games, and rookie Rodney McGruder has been a fixture in the starting lineup for months.

All five are guards and all five are deserving of minutes. Now it’s up to Spoelstra to divvy up those minutes.

“Bring it on, please,” Spoelstra said before tonight’s game against the Nets. “That’s my job. Thank God.”

In particular, Spoelstra will have the issue of a secondary ball handler behind Dragic. Johnson, who has come off the bench in all 40 games he’s played, has been the team’s backup point guard. But Waiters filled that role while Johnson was out, shifting to the point the last six games when Dragic would take a break, giving him those valuable extra minutes of which he has taken advantage of.

“These are good things for us to have to deal with,” Spoelstra said. “This is much better. These are the types of things that I wanted to be dealing with a whole lot earlier.”

Johnson went through warmups tonight and cleared all hurdles, meaning he will play for the first time since Jan. 19. The Heat won all six games he was out and enter tonight having won seven in a row, the longest active streak in the league.

Spoelstra said Johnson turned the corner this weekend. He did not travel with the team for games in Brooklyn and Chicago last Wednesday and Friday.

“He had a very good week and followed it up with very focused work Saturday and Sunday,” Spoelstra said.

Spoelstra expects Johnson to be full speed when he’s on the court.

“I don’t necessarily know if he’ll play his full extended minutes, but if he’s able to go, he’s going to go,” Spoelstra said. “We’re not going to half step it.”

[Hassan Whiteside on Saturday’s ‘gratifying’ win over Pistons: ‘That felt better than a 20-20 game’]

 

 

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