KENDALL — Justise Winslow is getting ready for his third NBA season. But to him, it feels like he’s preparing for his second.
That’s because Winslow’s year was cut short last season, as he was limited to just 18 games. After missing 16 games due to a sprained left wrist — his shooting wrist — early in the season, the 21-year-old forward underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder on Jan. 5.
Winslow struggled to be an efficient offensive player in that small sample size, averaging 10.9 points on 35.6 percent shooting from the field and 20 percent shooting from 3-point range. But he did show the potential to become an effective weapon as a point forward who can help initiate offense.
Potential that Winslow hopes he can build on moving forward. Winslow expects to be fully recovered from shoulder surgery by the time training camp starts in September, and he’s already started to participate in full-contact work.
Winslow spoke to a few reporters on Thursday afternoon at the Heat’s summer youth basketball camp at Miami-Dade College. He answered questions on his rehab process, what he’s hoping to improve this offseason and the Kyrie Irving-Cavaliers situation.
Here’s what Winslow had to say …
Q: How’s the shoulder? Are you going through full-contact work yet?
Justise: “Yeah. I’m not playing in games, obviously. But I’ve gone up against people. I’ve fallen, I’ve hit the ground and I’ve gotten up with little to no pain. Pretty much no pain each time. So it feels good. It feels pretty stable. Obviously it takes getting used to, but I feel pretty comfortable with it. The trainers have done a great job with speeding me along this process and making sure I feel comfortable each step along the way. So I feel good and I feel like by the time training camp comes around, I’ll be 100 percent and confident in my shoulder and in my game.”
Q: What have you learned throughout the rehab process?
Justise: “You learn a lot. You learn a lot about yourself, I think that’s the biggest thing. Just as a man, just maturing and growing as a person, you learn a lot. Obviously, you see the game in a different lens when you’re hurt and I think that’s something I’m going to try to implement and use to my advantage right away. But you learn about mental versus physical strength, you learn about the power of the mind and the brain versus your muscles. Obviously, the mind is stronger. You learn a lot of different things when you can’t do something that you do so routinely. For me, it’s been a great process and I’m almost kind of happy that it happened because I learned so much about myself as a player and as a person. So it was a blessing and a curse. But more of a blessing.”
Q: You’re such a versatile player and can play so many different positions, whether it’s power forward, small forward or shooting guard off the bench. How do you prepare for the season with your versatility in mind?
Justise: “For me, I’m still trying to be that versatile guy and do everything. But obviously, I have weaknesses and strengths. I’m trying to make my weaknesses better and also focusing and sticking to my strengths. For me, it’s about being able to knock down that corner 3, being able to be a force of nature in transition, being able to post up. Just trying to be the most in shape person on the floor so I can make the most plays and make those winning plays that coach preaches about a lot. For me, it’s about just taking that next step offensively and defensively just trying to be a pest and a guy that guys don’t want to be matched up against. For me, it’s about just becoming more efficient offensively and concentrating and focusing and making more of those easy ones, and letting the rest of the game just come to me naturally.”
Q: When you say you want to become a more efficient offensive player, do you think too much is being made about your outside shot? Is the outside shot just a part of that process?
Justise: “I’m not making any excuses, but I was dealing with a lot of things [last season]. I feel like in the preseason, I was shooting the ball well and shooting how I wanted to shoot it. I hit some bumps in the road in the regular season. But honestly, I don’t pay attention to much of that. My teammates tell me to shoot the ball. They have confidence in me and that’s all I can ask for. Everyone is just telling me to go out there and play my game. But I’m excited. I’m excited for this next chapter. I honestly feel like this is Year 2 for me and not Year 3, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Q: Which parts of your game were you able to work on even while you were rehabbing from shoulder surgery?
Justise: “Just getting back to the basics. A lot of form shooting. A lot of fundamentals as to how to present the ball and finish better around the rim. Just being hurt brings you back to square one. You can’t jump from square one to square 10. You have to make all those stops in increments. For me, that’s what it was about. I never got too down on myself. I treated my rehab like any other workout, any other conditioning test. I just went after it and tried to attack it. That’s how I got better every day.”
Q: With all of the rumors and discussion surrounding Kyrie Irving’s trade request, do you sort of feel for him as a fellow Duke guy?
Justise: “I’m not sure if I ‘feel’ for him, but I don’t agree with some of the hate and some of the things that have been thrown his way. For Kyrie, I know he’s a talented player and he’s done a lot for that team in that role, and I think he’s almost kind of maximized that role. And I think that’s kind of the point that he got to, is that he’s ready to take that next step. Some people don’t agree, some people do agree. But for him, I know that he’s been waiting for this moment to have his own team. I’m happy for him. It’s not the perfect way it’s going down, with all the behind-the-scenes stuff that I don’t even know about. But just for him, just knowing him, he’s hit the big shot in the Finals. He’s won a [Olympic] gold medal. He’s won a world championship. He’s been an All-Star. He’s been All-Star MVP. So I think when you go down the list, there’s not much more he can accomplish. But I think the thing he’s trying to accomplish is leading his own team, in his own way. I’m happy for him. He’s going to get the chance, hopefully, we’ll see. Because I know it’s something that he really wants.”
Bonus question from one of the kids at the Heat’s summer camp during a question-and-answer session: How do you feel about the Heat possibly acquiring Kyrie Irving in a trade?
Justise: “I’m good friends with Kyrie, but it’s not really like free agency. Kyrie doesn’t really have a huge say-so in where he goes. He’s going to get traded. So a lot of it is not in his hands, but I would love to play with Kyrie. But I’m happy with the team we have now, especially Goran [Dragic]. He’s a great point guard. So it’s out of my control. But I like Kyrie as a person and as a player.”