Jacari McRae | October 2nd, 2019
After finishing short of the playoffs last season, Miami Heat President Pat Riley vowed there would be changes. The changes he was referring to was the Heat’s culture. The Heat prides itself on being the most conditioned team in the entire league. Riley believes that slipped last season and it was the reason the Heat missed the postseason.
“There’s going to be changes next year,” Riley said during a press conference back in April. “Not a new culture, but tightening the screws on a culture that sometimes erodes just a little bit.”
On Tuesday, the Heat set the tone for what they’re expecting out of this season from their players and the first victim was forward James Johnson. He did not meet the team’s conditioning requirements and is not participating in training camp until he does.
Here’s how Erik Spoelstra addressed the situation, via Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel:
“JJ is not here,” coach Erik Spoelstra said at the close of the Heat’s first of two-a-day practices. “He did not meet the requirements that he knew about and we set for him coming into camp. He is still very much a part of our team and we hope to get him back soon. The rest of it is handled in the statement. And we want what’s best for him and hopefully he’ll be back soon.”
Johnson is not the first Heat player to get sent home from training camp. Back in 2006, the Heat banished forwards Antoine Walker and James Posey from training camp for failing the conditioning requirements.
The Heat veteran is entering the third year of his four-year, $60 million deal with the team, but is coming off his worst season with Miami. Johnson missed the first 15 games last season while recovering from a sports hernia surgery, and hasn’t been the same player he once was in 2017. He finished the year averaging Heat career lows in points (7.8), rebounds (3.2), and minutes (21.2) per game in 55 games.
The Heat expect to play past mid-April this season and they’re making it clear to their players that last season’s culture slippage is not happening this year. The message has been sent. Meet the conditioning requirements or go home.
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Main Image Credit:Embed from Getty Images