James Johnson after Heat’s 7-9 start: ‘This is code red right now’

MIAMI — Heat tri-captain James Johnson has a message for his teammates after their 7-9 start to the season.

“We’re no longer twitching the needle,” Johnson said after Wednesday morning’s shootaround session. “This is code red right now. We don’t have no time to wait. This is where the playoff games or games to get in the playoffs reside right now.”

Goran Dragic #7 and Hassan Whiteside #21 of the Miami Heat walk up the floor against the Washington Wizards at Capital One Arena on November 17, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Coach Erik Spoelstra is pleased with the work that’s been accomplished since Sunday’s blowout home loss to the Pacers, but the challenge is to sustain it. The Heat entered Wednesday as the league’s seventh-best first-half team in terms of plus-minus at plus-44, but also the league’s worst second-half team at minus-87.

“There’s times in games where it’s like, OK, that’s what we’re trying to get to,” Spoelstra said Wednesday morning. “That’s the identity we’re trying to get to. And then boom, we have the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. So it’s about habits and behavior right now. We’re firmly rooted in process right now. And then we’ll see what kind of result happens from that. But it’s all these little steps that we have to correct first. And hopefully to find a little bit more consistency and reliability.”

The talk in between games hasn’t helped the Heat.

After the starting backcourt of Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters pointed to screen-setting as an issue hurting the Heat’s drive-and-kick offense, center Hassan Whiteside pointed the finger right back.

“I mean, it’s just, it’s just, man, the guys aren’t being patient,” Whiteside said after Tuesday’s practice. “Me and D-Wade showed that all year long. We ain’t had no problems. It’s just being patient, man, just be patient, wait for the screen and let guys set you up and make decisions”

But Heat guard Wayne Ellington said that type of dialogue needs to end.

“That comes with communication between the guards and the bigs and we have to hold each other accountable,” Ellington said. “We can’t point the finger at one guy and he point the finger back. You got to say, ‘Hey, OK, I’m going to do my job and wait for you to get here and then wait for you to set this screen.’ That’s how you get through that and after you talk about it, you go out there on the court and you get it done.”

No more excuses. The Heat now want some wins.

“We don’t necessarily need the excuses that we were making,” Johnson said. “Guards, bigs. We just set the bar high during the last two days of practice and we just kept running and running and running until you didn’t need that excuse that you were using.”

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