MIAMI – For Justise Winslow it’s been a long, slow recovery. But the Miami Heat forward knows the end is near.
“Five months down one more to go as far as the six month process,” Winslow said Saturday about the right shoulder injury that ended his second season in the NBA.
“I feel great. I got all my range of motion. We’re just trying to get it strong enough that it can endure contact and falls.”
Winslow, appearing at the NBA 3-on-3 tour fan experience at Bayfront Park, is in the Heat training facility nearly every day working on his recovery. He underwent surgery in early January to repair a torn labrum. That injury, along with missing 16 games because of a sprained wrist, limited him to just 18 games last season.
Now the 21-year-old says he is looking for the “silver lining” to a frustrating second season.
“For me it’s about getting my shoulder right, getting in the best shape possible and to make strides in my game one day at a time,” he said. “I can’t wait to get back out there. For some reason I’ve remained pretty steady throughout this whole surgery process and recovery process. I know when the time comes that I’ll be ready.”
The 6-foot-7 Winslow was back on the court toward the end of the season, working out at his pace. Though it will be weeks until he’s ready for full contact, he is going through limited contact with trainers.
“I don’t think they are going to throw me to the wolves and go crazy,” he said.
Winslow expects to be fully recovered by the time training camp starts in September.
As far as his individual training, this summer is much like last.
“Shooting,” he said. “I’m trying to get my shooting mechanics down. I’m trying to become the best shooter I possibly can.”
Most criticism of Winslow has centered around his outside shot. He made 42.2 percent as a rookie, just 27.6 percent on 3-pointers. The Heat then handed him the starting small forward spot last summer with the hopes that the shot would improve.
But things got worse. Bothered by the wrist early in the season, Winslow became tentative and when he did shoot the results were ugly. He made just 35.6 percent of his 225 field goal attempts and was 7-of-35 (20 percent) on threes.
Heat President Pat Riley said following the season the criticism of Winslow was unfair.
“I wish you would get off his 3-point shooting because he’s so much more than that,” Riley told the media. “He’s a player. He’s a warrior. He’s a defender. He’s got tremendous energy. He cares about winning. The guy had a tough, rough ride this year.
“We’re measuring this guy after (96) games. And I think that’s unfair.”
Other than heading home to the Houston area in a little more than two weeks for a two-day camp, Winslow plans to spend the rest of the summer in Miami. He is one of a handful of Heat players under contract and is not sure what the team will look like when free agency settles down.
“The offseason is crazy as we know from last year,” he said. “As a player all I can do is become the best Justise Winslow I can. I can’t really worry about who is coming in or what the front office is going to do. I can only take care and control what I can control and that’s my game, that’s my body, that’s my mind.”
The two biggest names from the Heat roster when it comes to free agents are forward James Johnson and guard Dion Waiters. And although Winslow said, “those guys know” when asked if he’s been doing any recruiting, he would not reveal anything more about their situations.
Still, he’s anxious for this team to build off a season in which it finished 30-11 after an 11-30 start and missed the playoffs by one game.
“This team had something special,” he said. “I would have loved our chances in the first round (of the playoffs) and take it from there.
“I think guys are using that as motivation. We know that feeling of being right there. We know that feeling of being counted out, being underdogs. We use that as fuel.”