MIAMI – The last time Justise Winslow played, the Heat lost to Portland, dropping their record to 13-14. Since, with Winslow rehabbing a sprained left knee, Miami has turned around its season, winning 11-of-14 games.
Like it not, Winslow is coming back.
The third-year forward from Duke had two productive days, including a full-contact practice Saturday, as the Heat enjoyed a three-day break before hosting Milwaukee Sunday at 1 p.m. He will be in uniform, but now coach Erik Spoelstra has to decided how he will fit into a team that has won six straight and climbed to No. 4 in the Eastern Conference.
“We’ll have to find out where those opportunities and minutes will be,” Spoelstra said. “He’ll get into the game and we’ll figure out how many minutes will be from there. It will be more about continuity. I will play more than eight guys I played in the Indiana game but I won’t force it, it will have to happen naturally.”
Spoelstra can used another healthy body after learning this week that guard Dion Waiters will undergo ankle surgery and miss the rest of the season. And Winslow’s versatility should find him minutes at the wing and as a point forward.
Although Winslow played some power forward before his injury, those minutes likely will not be as plentiful with the emergence of Bam Adebayo.
“For me it’s not going to be crazy minutes at first,” said Winslow. “Just going out there playing with a lot of energy, trying to make plays. The coaching staff will do what’s best for the team whether it’s minutes at the four sparingly or on the wing or playing some point forward. I’m versatile enough and smart enough, that wherever they fill me in, to be effective and efficient.”
Winslow, 21, is averaging 6.6 points and 5.4 rebounds in 27 games. While his scoring is down he has improved his shooting, which has been his biggest liability. Winslow is shooting 42.6 percent, 39.0 on threes. A year ago, while playing just 18 games because of wrist and shoulder injuries, Winslow shot just 35.6 percent, 20.0 on threes, while averaging 10.9 points.
Winslow has been doing court work for weeks but at times was frustrated he was unable to turn the corner.
“It’s been gradually getting better and just attacking it every day knowing that it’s not going to happen overnight,” Winslow said. “Parts of it was frustrating not seeing the progress at first. Eventually getting less pain every day and keep moving forward with positivity every day.”
The Heat will bring back Derrick Jones Jr. after Saturday’s Sioux Falls game for “insurance.” Jones started the last two games, at Toronto and Indiana, and scored 16 points and grabbed six rebounds.
“I really like the minutes Derrick Jones gave us the last two games,” Spoelstra said. “He picked things up very quickly and gives you that size, length and big-time athleticism from that wing positions.”
The other positive injury news concerns guard Tyler Johnson, who said his injury, which he first thought was in his shoulder but has since been diagnoses as a muscle spasm in his neck, has recovered.
Johnson missed Tuesday’s game in Toronto and came off the bench the next night in Indiana to score 15 points in 31 minutes.
“I’ve been getting a lot of therapy on it, a massage,” Johnson said. “It feels night and day better than when I initially did it.”