During the Heat’s remarkable second-half surge last season, Justise Winslow could only watch while wearing a suit on the bench. Winslow missed most of last year after undergoing surgery on his right shoulder, robbing him of some key developmental minutes alongside the rest of the Heat’s young core, which went 30–11 to close the season.
Winslow figures to be a much bigger factor in his third year in Miami, where the Heat are running it back with mostly the same group responsible for the furious finish to last season. Winslow recently chatted with The Crossover on behalf of MET-Rx—whom he partnered with to fuel his comeback and training—to discuss his rehab, the Heat's off-season moves, and if he wants to see Dwyane Wade finish his career in Miami.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Rohan Nadkarni: How excited were you when the Heat brought back Dion Waiters and James Johnson this summer?
Justise Winslow: I wouldn’t say I’ve known for a while, but we built something really special. For a lot of it I was on the sideline, but throughout the season all those guys worked extremely hard. We always kept the locker room as a good place, a safe place. We never had any animosity toward any people. So it didn’t surprise me at all when those guys re-signed. They really considered Miami their home, and for good reason. Miami helped them reach a lot of their goals last season. I’m excited, with me healthy, we can do a lot of great things with that kind of lineup.
RN: Was it harder to be on the sidelines when the team was struggling or when they went on their huge run?
JW: Both. It was a lot of mixed emotions. I wanted to be out there. When the team was struggling, that made the decision to get surgery a little easier. We were so many games below .500, we were thinking let’s just get ready for next season and come in next year at full force. The team was struggling but I was supporting my guys of course. I was in every practice I could be, every film session. The team started playing better, and it was just human nature, I felt I should be out there. My selfish thoughts did have peaks and came out a little bit. For the most part, I was super excited for my teammates and I was just happy they were playing so well together. Obviously you want to make the playoffs, but we have something great to build off. So I would say it was about even. When the team was struggling, I thought I could be out there helping. When the team was doing well, it was something I wanted to be a part of.
RN: Do you feel pressure to recruit guys to Miami during free agency?
JW: It kind of depends on the player we’re recruiting. For example, this summer I knew we were trying to get Gordon [Hayward]. I gave him my number if he ever wanted to talk about anything, I was there. He had a couple questions. It kind of just depends on the player to be honest. I’m not going to recruit if it’s someone that I don’t want to play with. For me, personally, I’m not even a real two years in the league. I’m still trying to do my thing and focus on my recovery process. A lot of the other stuff is out of my control. I can’t make the decision for Gordon or make the front office moves for Coach Riley.
RN: Is it frustrating for you when people focus so much on your shooting and not other parts of your game?
JW: Not really. I’ve been hearing it for so long that it just goes in one ear and out the other. I listen to my coaches, my trainers and my teammates. And not even so much my friends and family, sometimes they have biased views. I’m just about whatever it takes to help the Miami Heat win a championship next year. I do so many things on the court that I don’t let my shooting take away from that. I play my game, and as far as the fans or media, they’re going to say whatever they’re going to say. Like last year, when we weren’t doing well, we brought it in, one-two-three, together. That’s all you can really worry about, the guys in the locker room, the coaching staff, going out there and not letting your brother down.
RN: How important has your diet and nutrition been as you recover from your injury?
JW: It’s been really important. At first, I was hurt and couldn’t do much. It started with a lot of junk food and candy. I knew this was going to be a big off-season for me. I did a lot of research, cracked down on my diet, and became serious about it. Taking care of your body is important. As you get older, you mature and learn things. That’s something I’m trying to take the next step in, my maturity, my diet.
RN: Do you feel totally recovered from your surgery?
JW: I’m making strides to feeling a 100%. Haven’t been doing that much contact, it’s been slowly progressing. I can’t say that I’m ready for a complete game, five-on-five. But I’m doing drills with coaches, the shoulder feels good, it feels stable. I’m sure that will take care of itself.
RN: Have you been able to add anything to your game this summer or are you still working your way back?
JW: Still working my way back. I’ve been working on a lot of form shooting. That was one of the blessings of this injury. I wasn’t really able to use my right hand, so I was in a sling shooting a lot of form shots with my left hand, shooting a lot of one-handed free throws. Going back to the fundamentals and basics was good for me on becoming a better shooter. I’ve been doing pretty much everything. I think last year I was showing I could do a little bit of everything. I could post up, I could hit the pull-up jumper, I could hit the open three before I hurt my wrist and shoulder.
I’m working on all aspects of my game. I want to be a force of nature in transition. We have a young team, so we’ll be trying to get up and down. Whether it’s getting the rebound and pushing, or getting the rebound and kicking it to someone in space, being able to hit Hassan [Whiteside[ on the lob, I want to go out there and make winning plays for my team. My workouts are very different from your normal NBA player. As the NBA continues to change, you see these versatile players. Guys like [Andre] Iguodala who can do everything on the court, or LeBron, who is everything. Those type of guys are who I want to be. I never limit myself in anything that I do.
RN: What do you think the ceiling is for the group you have in Miami right now?
JW: I don’t want to put a ceiling on us, all that’s going to do is limit us. We’re going for it all. That’s the culture we have in Miami. The culture that Coach Riley has implemented is: We’re going for it all. Every year we’re trying to win a championship. Even last year that was the goal. The goal remains the same. It’s championship or not. That doesn’t mean we didn’t have fun. But we’re trying to win a championship and that’s something that’s never going to change in Miami. And that’s what I like about the culture. We’re never trying to just make the playoffs or the second round. We’re always trying to win, and that’s something I can appreciate.
RN: Dion Waiters has been a little active on Twitter talking about bringing Dwyane Wade back to Miami. You two seemed close your rookie year, would you like to see him back in Miami?
JW: That’s up to Dwyane.