The news could have been worse on James Johnson as an MRI showed that the Miami Heat’s starting power forward has bursitis in his right ankle and he is expected to miss 7 to 10 days.
Johnson came out of Saturday’s win over the Clippers midway through the first quarter and did not return. Johnson received treatment during the game and had the MRI today. He is not traveling with the team today for its two-game road trip. The Heat play in Atlanta on Monday and Boston on Wednesday.
Under that timetable, Johnson, 30, would miss four or five games if he returns for Miami’s Dec. 29 home game against Brooklyn.
Bursitis is the inflammation of one or more bursae sacs, small fluid-filled sacs. Trauma is one of the causes. Johnson, who signed a four-year, $60 million contract in July, appeared to turn his right ankle while defending Clippers forward Sam Dekker as Dekker was driving to the basket. Johnson started limping and almost immediately hobbled to the locker room under his own power.
The 6-foot-8 Johnson has settled into the starting power forward spot and entered Saturday’s game averaging 11.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists while shooting 49.6 percent.
Josh Richardson, who scored a career-high 28 points against the Clippers, was asked about this team continuing to play through injuries.
“That’s what kind of team we are,” he said. “Every year there’s been a guy that steps up huge for us. My first year it was me. Last year it was Rodney (McGruder). This year, Jordan is stepping up; Bam (Adebayo) is stepping up. There’s always had to be times where someone has to step up out of nowhere and be always ready.”
The Heat also are without center Hassan Whiteside as he continues to recover from a second bone bruise on his left knee and forward Justise Winslow, although is making the trip and appears to be getting closer to returning after missing two games with a right knee strain. Additionally, swingman Rodney McGruder (stress fracture, left leg) and forward Okaro White (left foot facture) are out.
Coach Erik Spoelstra has several options while Johnson is out, and that’s with or without Whiteside in the lineup.
Whiteside is not traveling this week and will have missed 11 consecutive games when Miami returns home to play Dallas Friday. Without Whiteside, Spoelstra first went with Adebayo at center and Winslow at power forward. But after three games he rolled out a lineup that had Kelly Olynyk at center and Johnson at power forward. That group – along with Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters and Richardson – is 4-2.
Olynyk will continue to start at center with Whiteside sidelined. Spoelstra had Adebayo in Johnson’s spot to start the second half Saturday. And the emergence of 6-8 Jordan Mickey, who has 17 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks the last two games, gives Spoelstra another option.
Additionally, Winslow started 13 straight games at power forward, alongside Whiteside and could move back into the lineup in Johnson’s absence. But Winslow appears more comfortable coming off the bench, which allows him to be used in different roles, including as a facilitator.
Whiteside was on the court Friday doing light work which means the 7-foot center is moving closer to getting back in the lineup. If Whiteside returns before Johnson, Spoelstra has even more options and could choose between four players – Olynyk, Adebayo, Mickey and Winslow – to start at power forward.
The most interesting would be if he opted for Olynyk, who has not been on the court with Whiteside since opening night when both started and played 10 minutes together.