Tyler Johnson glad Miami Heat kept team together: ‘We know what we’re capable of’

KENDALL — When asked how important it was to him that this Heat team stayed together this offseason, Tyler Johnson flashed his toothless grin.

Johnson was happy to see the Heat re-sign James Johnson and Dion Waiters, and find room to retain Wayne Ellington. As it stands right now, the Heat have 11 players returning from last year’s season-ending roster.

Johnson spoke to a few reporters on Tuesday afternoon at the Heat’s summer youth basketball camp at Miami-Dade College. He answered questions on the Heat’s potential for this upcoming season, first-round pick Bam Adebayo and even the toothless look he keeps going with.

Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic, left, gives a high five to teammate Tyler Johnson in the closing moments of the Heats 107-102 win over the Sacramento Kings in an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017, in Sacramento, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Here’s what Johnson had to say …

Q: How important is it to you that the Heat decided to keep this team together this offseason?

Tyler: “I remember [Pat] Riley telling us after the trade deadline he wanted to keep the team together just to give us a chance. He wanted to give us the opportunity to compete and try to make the playoffs. Obviously we fell short of that goal. But with the way that team was headed and the way we bonded and the way things have been going this summer, all I was hoping for during free agency was that we brought back the guys who were in the trenches last year.”

Q: You hear people talking about Cleveland, Boston, Washington and Toronto. Do you feel the current Heat roster has the talent to crack the top four in the East?

Tyler: “Yeah. We’re not worried about that. We know what we’re capable of. If we continue building on the habits that we picked up last season, we’re not putting no numbers on it. We just know that we’re going to be in every single game that we play in. So who’s to say that we couldn’t make it and crack that top four.”

Q: Were you surprised the Heat were able to keep this team together this offseason?

Tyler: “I won’t say surprised. But in this business nothing is guaranteed, as far as guys coming after James [Johnson], coming after Dion [Waiters], whether the team picked up Wayne [Ellington’s contract] or not. Once all those pieces fell into place, I was definitely excited. But obviously, nothing is guaranteed in this league. But I wouldn’t say I was surprised when we brought everybody back.”

Q: Not only do you have the chemistry of a returning cast, but having a style that you guys established that works for you in terms of spreading the floor around Hassan Whiteside. How much of an advantage does that give you guys?

Tyler: “It’s a huge advantage. Hassan has been putting in work. If he picks up where he left off last year, he has the potential to be an All-Star. When he plays the way he’s capable of playing, he’s the best center in the league hands down. There’s nobody who can do what he does on both ends of the floor, in my opinion. His stats kind of went down in the later part of the season, but he was probably more important to our team during that stretch than he was the first 11-30 stretch.”

Q: What was your first impression of first-round pick Bam Adebayo in summer league?

Tyler: “I didn’t realize how versatile he was. He was pushing the floor, grabbing rebounds and then leading the break. I wasn’t expecting that, especially for a guy as big as he is. So that kind of caught me off guard, and then his athleticism. You throw the ball anywhere, and he’s going to go up and go get it. And also how mature he was for being 19. I was definitely surprised by that.”

Q: How do you see Kelly Olynyk fitting in with this Heat team?

Tyler: “I know I hated playing against him. I’m assuming he’s one of those guys that you hate to play against but you love to have on your team. I saw how important he was to that Boston squad, so I think he’ll be a good fit for this team.”

Q: You keep telling us that you’re going to replace your missing front tooth, but the toothless look is still there. Is this just your look?

Tyler: “I don’t know. My mom’s been pushing me, too. So I think she might be the one to finally get me to get one. But I don’t see why it’s necessary right now, because I’m sure eventually it’s going to get knocked out again. I mean, if I play 10 years in the NBA, I’m pretty sure I’m going to lose it two, three more times.”

Q: You said you’ve lost seven teeth. Did they all come while playing basketball?

Tyler: “Yeah. I had one incident in college where I dove on the floor. Somebody fell on top of the back of my head and all my teeth went into the court. So I lost five or six at that time. And then when I broke my jaw, I think that was my seventh.”

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