Heat forward James Johnson on struggles to begin 2017-18 NBA season
James Johnson has had a tough stretch in the early stages of the season, still trying to find the rhythm he had going during the last part of 2016-17, as the Miami Heat mounted a 30-11 assault to come only a tiebreaker away from a playoff berth.
The 6-foot-9 jack of all trades has felt the blunt of a four year, $60 million offer he signed over the summer, now weighing heavily upon him — trusted to be the dynamic playmaker that the team needed to push through a dire 11-30 start to the season.
“I’m killing myself every night, every day,” Johnson said Thursday before Miami traveled to Washington D.C. for Friday’s game against the Wizards, according to Tom D’Angelo of The Palm Beach Post.
“It’s just been terrible performances out of me and not just from an offensive standpoint, the defense. I can put my prints on the game better on the defensive end. Our second unit, Tyler (Johnson) and me we should come in and have that same affect we had last year and we haven’t been able to do that.”
Johnson’s most recent outing gave only a mere five points, two rebounds, two assists, and two turnovers in a loss to the Wizards on Wednesday — paling in comparison to the beefy all-around combo platter he supplied through the last 58 games of last season.
“He’s putting too much pressure on himself and that’s what we want to eliminate, those thoughts. Just go out there, don’t think too much, play free and only good things are going to happen,” teammate Goran Dragic said.
“I talk to him a lot, I already tell him ‘Don’t put pressure on yourself.’ He’s set, he signed the deal and we need him to be back to his old JJ, not to put too much pressure about the contract or what people expect. I already told him ‘Be you, how you (were) last year, that’s how you should play. Relax like you did last year, try to make plays on defense, offense.’ We feel like he’s closer every game.”
The Wake Forest product isn’t putting up horrid numbers, averaging a healthy 11.8 points on 50 percent shooting from the field, while contributing more rebounds and more assists than last year, but he’s attempted eight or less field goals in the last four games — double-guessing his opportunities and making it more difficult on himself at times.
“We believe in James and JJ is such an important piece to our team because of his versatility on both ends of the court,” Spoelstra said, noting his defense should naturally lead to his offense within the flow of the game. “I want him to focus on his strengths right now.”
“And then from there it can grow just like it did last year,” Spoelstra said. “But right now simplify it to those things I think will really help him. It’s still early. He cares and he wants to do the right play. He’s a giving player. He wants to do the right thing for the guys. I think it will work itself out if we simplify his mind.”