Miami Heat: James Johnson making an undeniable case for minutes

James Johnson #16 of the Miami Heat drives to the basket against the New York Knicks (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
James Johnson #16 of the Miami Heat drives to the basket against the New York Knicks (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Miami Heat may have just had two of their worst losses of this season, but one player shone. James Johnson is blasting his way back into the rotation.

The Miami Heat just had one of their worst sequences of games all season, a horrible weekend excursion to New York, and their first set of back to back losses all season. What makes this even worse is the fact that these losses came to two average to below-average teams.

The Brooklyn Nets aren’t awful, and with the recent return of Kyrie Irving, could potentially catapult themselves into contention in the Eastern Conference. On the other hand though, the Miami Heat also lost to a team that has already fired their coach and are probably already looking ahead to the lottery for the umpteenth time in the last quarter-century.

Basically, loosing to the Nets wasn’t enjoyable but tolerable, while losing to the New York Knicks was not only inexcusable but flat out embarrassing. The Miami Heat should be ashamed of themselves, well, at least nearly all of them.

While it is hard to find a silver lining in the scenario that is losing to the New York Knickerbockers in their current construct, one of the absolute worst teams in the entire NBA, it was made much easier by the subject at hand. After starting the season out of shape, being sent home from training camp, on the bench, and out of the rotation, James Johnson has come back with a vengeance.

Injury and necessity has seen him get back into the rotation recently, receiving minutes in three of the last several games while looking very spy and in tune with those minutes. He made his return to the court most recently on last Sunday against the Trail Blazers, after not playing since November 27th, scoring 12 points, grabbing six rebounds, dropping two dimes, and swatting two shots.

He was DNP’d in the very next game against the Indiana Pacers (which is probably a good thing for JJ’s pockets, the Miami Heat, and T.J. Warren), surely a test of his perseverance and demeanor, before having his number called in the Heat’s first New York-based game against Brooklyn on Friday.

Across 12 and a half minutes in that contest, Johnson put up six points, three boards, and two assists. He had shot the ball decently during his opportunities this season up until Sunday against the Knicks, but he came into Madison Square Garden apparently looking to prove a point with his shooting, while simultaneously staking his claim to more minutes.

In Sunday’s game, Johnson went for 19 points, four rebounds, and a block on 6-7 shooting from the field and a perfect 3-3 from deep. He was on fire and one of the only consistent bright spots for the Heat during the game.

The thing that has always existed about Johnson and something that sticks out like a sore thumb due to a lack of on this particular team is his physicality. No matter what Johnson is doing on the floor, he always does it with a certain bravadommph!, or exertion of his own physical presence. Basically, regardless of whether he is on offense, defense, setting a pick, rebounding, or doing anything else on the court, you are always going to feel James Johnson’s body and physical prowess on or against you.

On a team that has lacked certain defensive, physical, and rebounding intensity at times as well, what Johnson brings as far as mentality and style of play are a welcomed sight at the moment. To be frank, with the way he is playing, and especially surrounding the continued uncertainty around Justise Winslow’s back at the moment, look for Johnson to continue to see minutes in the rotation.

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At least he should. You could also probably look for him to start eating away at some of Derrick Jones Jr’s regular minutes, where neither of them would be playing more than the other, but just in that they will probably be closer to even as far as minutes go, which is smart and appropriate. Either way and no matter how it comes to him, James Johsnon has earned more playing time.