MIAMI — Before Heat players walked off into the offseason, they took some time to reflect back on the season and look forward to the next few months Monday during exit interviews.
Dion Waiters and James Johnson spoke about their desire to return to Miami next season. Justise Winslow gave an update on his shoulder injury and Tyler Johnson revealed that he plans to replace his missing tooth.
Hassan Whiteside, Luke Babbitt and Josh McRoberts declined to speak to the media, as exit interviews are voluntary and not mandatory.
Here’s the best stuff from Monday’s media session with Heat players …
* What is the Heat way? “Them staying on top of you and making sure you do what you got to do. Most important is getting your mind and body right. That’s one thing they preach over here, just get in the best shape of your life. As you can see with some of the guys coming in, including myself, just getting your body right. It showed with the performance on the court.”
* When asked if Waiters wants to return to Miami next season, Waiters said, ‘Of course.”
* Will Waiters even take less money this summer to stay with the Heat? “Whatever it takes. I can’t answer that right now. I cant control that.”
* On signing a cheap contract with the Heat last offseason: “I just think the opportunity paid off. Everything I talked to Pat [Riley] about this summer came to fruition. One thing about Pat, he’s a man of his word. That’s why I chose to take that. I said it was never about the money. It was all about opportunity. I was able to play my game, I was able to show different aspects of my game. I was able to be in position where coach trusted me with the ball in my hands in late game situations. If I was on a different team, I probably would not have been in that situation to take that shot. We’re just getting started. It’s only the beginning.”
* Waiters believes this Heat team can compete for an NBA championship: “You never know in this league, anything can happen. You hear people say, you need a certain player. No you don’t. We’ve got a bunch of guys who play together and who play the right way and guys go out there and defend, that’s what we do. I like our chances against anyone.”
* Waiters said he doesn’t need surgery on his left ankle. The ankle is still “a little swollen,” but he’s walking without a limp.
* Do you root for Dwyane Wade in the playoffs? “Of course. Obviously what he’s done for this city and for this franchise, but at the same time that’s also my Li-Ning fam. I definitely root for D-Wade.”
* Johnson said players still under contract with the Heat will back at the team facility “early” to start offseason work. But not too early. “I need some time to take my fam around and do some of the things we weren’t able to do during the season. But I’ve made it very clear to my family that just because it’s the summer time doesn’t mean I’m going to be able to be doing vacation like that. … I understand what we’re building here. It’s something real.”
* Although Tyler wants James Johnson to return next season, he “only wants the best for him.” But Tyler made it clear that “we all want him back.”
* Now that the season is over, will you go to the dentist to get a replacement for your missing tooth? “It’s definitely about that time. Not even just for the look of it. It’s just because it’s going to mess up all my other teeth.” Will you see the barber, too? “Nah.”
* Will you try to convince James Johnson and Dion Waiters to return to the Heat? “Definitely. James and Dion, they know how we feel. They know that we want them back. Everybody is so close that it’s going to be hard for them to choose some other team, too. Hopefully they stay.”
* On having one of the best seasons of his career: “The reason was just that I felt comfortable. This place feels like home now. I don’t have any distractions off the court. I’m just thinking about basketball. The summer was really important for me. I really worked on my game and especially on my body, trying to be in the best shape of my life. I think I accomplished that.”
* Dragic will leave for Slovenia on April 30 and will play for his national team this summer. He won’t return to Miami until September.
* The Heat have a $6.3 million team option to bring Ellington back next season. When asked about his situation, Ellington smiled and said, “We’ll see what happens, man. But I have a good feeling.”
* Ellington added that Miami is the place he wants to be next season. “Obviously this is something that was special to all of us. It felt like this is the start of something that can really be great for us. But obviously, I understand the business. This is the place I want to be. This is the place that feels like home for me and feels really good to me.”
* Ellington said he plans to stay in Miami for his offseason work. “I’ll be here. I have a newborn son so he can’t really travel too much. This will be home-base all summer for me. I’ll be in the gym.”
* What does Ellington plan to work on this summer? “I want to continue to get in better shape. I feel like I can become an even more deadly 3-point shooter. I want to get it stuck on automatic. I want my shot to be automatic when it goes up. … You’ll see an improved player next year, for sure.”
* Entering free agency, how does Johnson feel about the Heat organization? “I’m home. That’s what it feels like. I love it here. I had a great season. I love the culture here and I’m very passionate about this place.”
* Johnson may get a bigger contract offer from another team, but he says he knows “that it’s not always greener on the other side.” That can only help the Heat as they try to bring back Johnson this summer. Johnson went on to say: “That’s the only thing that’s going on in the back of my head right now. I might not have the same opportunities that I had this year — to get out of the box and play the way that I can to contribute to winning. Who knows if I can get that on another team? Money has nothing to do with that. Basketball, I love the game and I love it here.”
* What’s Johnson’s goal next season? “I just want to beat Rodney McGruder next year in the conditioning test. Mark that down or whatever, but that’s my goal.”
* And for those asking if Johnson feels a sense of loyalty to the Heat organization. The answer is, yes. “I think the loyalty with this organization — that’s going to outweigh a lot of other things including money,” he said.
* Winslow said he’s “ahead of schedule” in his rehab from season-ending shoulder injury. He has still not tested the shoulder with contact work, but his range of motion “is pretty good.” Winslow plans on being 100 percent for the start of training camp.
* How hard was it for Winslow to watch the Heat this season and not be a part of the winning stretch? “It was fine. I was there for the guys, so I was trying to watch. If I saw something to help them out with, I was totally invested in trying to make this playoff push as much as I could be.”
* Winslow said his left wrist injury early in the season “held him back a little bit” with his outside shot.
* Reed is expected to opt out of a player option worth $1.6 million and become a free agent this summer. What will this offseason be like for him? “I don’t know what it’s going to be like for me, to be honest. I’ve never been in a position like this before, so I’m just trying to trust the process.”
* Reed said returning to the Heat next season “would be great.” He added: “Hopefully something works out. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
* On his play late in the season: “It was encouraging. When I feel 100 percent, I feel like that’s what I can do.”
* McGruder said he hasn’t been able to sleep since the end of the regular season. “Just thinking what’s next. You’re used to being on a routine and structured schedule. … Then it just comes to a halt. It’s been really tough to get sleep lately.”
* How is this offseason different for you — it’s your first offseason with an NBA contract? “A lot. I have great coaches, a great organization and guys that are going to help me, come sit down with me and tell me exactly what it is I need to improve on.”
* McGruder plans to work on becoming a more consistent shooter and better ball handler this summer. He will stay in Miami for most of his offseason work.