BOSTON — Need a reminder of just how much room Justise Winslow has to grow as a basketball player? Winslow turned 21 on Sunday.
Winslow’s second NBA season was cut short due to season-ending shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder in January. The last game he played in was on Dec. 30 when he suffered the injury on the final play of the Heat’s 117-114 loss to the Celtics in Boston.
But coach Erik Spoelstra has enough perspective to realize that it hasn’t been a totally lost season for Winslow, who was taken with the 10th overall pick in the 2015 draft out of Duke.
“It doesn’t necessarily have to be that dramatic either,” Spoelstra said Sunday when asked how hard it is for Winslow to miss this much time early in his career. “There’s nothing nice about it. We all feel horrible that he was injured.
“But he’s still has had a productive year of improvement, a summer of improvement, where he and [Josh Richardson] were two of the top five players in the Orlando Summer League. His summer of improvement in August and September and the kind of preseason that he had. Going through all of that, I think is important for a young player. And even going through adversity, you can find a silver lining out of this even though it’s not ideal. It does develop character.”
Spoelstra said earlier this month that Winslow is ahead of schedule in his rehab from shoulder surgery, but reiterated that he will not return this season. The Heat are taking a cautious approach with Winslow, as Spoelstra said the organization is “playing the long game with him.”
With a wrist injury keeping him out of other games earlier in the season, Winslow played in just 18 games in his second NBA season. He struggled offensively, averaging 10.9 points on 35.6 percent shooting from the field and 20 percent shooting from 3-point range.
There’s still plenty of time for Winslow to continue his growth on the basketball court, though. Spoelstra knows that.
“Just look at all of our young players and how much they’ve improved and how quickly their improvement can happen,” Spoelstra said. “You don’t have to look any further than Hassan in the last six weeks. He’s a much different player than he was at the beginning of the year. Josh Richardson in the last two weeks has really started to turn the corner. I like the improvement that he’s making. That’s why we don’t focus on the result. It’s improvement, development every single day.”