Being overlooked is something that not a lot of people have to get used to. It’s something that many professional athletes aren’t too accustomed to either. However, for a special percentage of people, being overlooked is a part of their life story just as vital as DNA is a part of their characteristics. Being overlooked can either take someone and make them feel less than what they are and perform underneath expectations or it can have the opposite effect.
For some being overlooked is what fuels them to become better. In a twisted sense of justice, people who thrive after being overlooked use everyone’s opinions who doubted them in order to rise. For the duo of Tyler Johnson and Justise Winslow, the main young components of the Miami Heat bench mob, they are no longer overlooked and that only spells trouble for their opponents. In order for the Heat to win another NBA Championship, that duo will be important because they bring elements to the team that hasn’t been there in previous years.
On Friday night when the Heat played against the Indiana Pacers on national television, it wasn’t Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh who came up clutch during the last two minutes of the game, it was Tyler Johnson. The undrafted sophomore from Fresno State made two important cuts to the basket on two different occasions which resulted in a tie game on one possession and an opportunity to win the game on another possession. Johnson has come a long way from playing in the NBA D-League and found himself playing in the most important part of the game, crunch time. It’s safe to say that Johnson has gotten better from the moment Pat Riley awarded him a roster spot. His success and hard work are the reason Miami is comfortable with trading Mario Chalmers because Johnson himself can man the backup point guard role.
In an interview with Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel, Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said this. “He’s the epitome of coming in every day with an approach to get better. And that’s what’s happened. It hasn’t been overnight. It’s been a year and change of consistent, focused work every single day, in our D-League, in our training camps, between practices, and earned the confidence of his coaching staff and, more important, his teammates. When he gets his number called he makes the most of his opportunity, without having expectations or entitlement from me, even though you can make a case that he’s earned it.”
On the other hand, the Heat also have another young player who is also important. When the 2015 NBA Draft was going down there weren’t too many people sold on Justise Winslow. What happened on that draft night is going to get several general managers fired because Winslow slipped to No. 10 and became the franchise player of the future for the Heat. How did Willie Cauley-Stein, Frank Kaminsky or Mario Herzonja get drafted before Winslow? No one knows.
Since being overlooked on that glorious draft night for Miami, Winslow has been better than expected. Against the Pacers, it was Winslow who had to guard Paul George on multiple possessions. It was Winslow who scored 13 points on 60% shooting and he grabbed 8 rebounds off the bench. It was also Winslow on the floor during the last 3 minutes of the game. The broken jump shot is the only aspect of his game that’s stopping him from being an All-Star caliber player in the league. However, that’s going to change before his career is over.
Winderman also chimed in on Winslow and in a radio interview he said this. “It’s crazy the maturity he shows. He really sorts of is a little bit of a mini Dwyane Wade when we first saw Dwyane Wade come into the NBA. Not a great outside shot, but something that can be developed. But you can see the Duke pedigree all over it. This is the kid who gets it. This is a kid who’s 19 going on 25.”
Johnson and Winslow both come off the bench for the Heat but during the first six games of the season they’ve been important to helping win games. When these two are inserted in games together, the defense of the team picks up, as does the energy of their teammates. These two young players play with a lot of passion and heart and it helps fuel the Heat to wins. For example, against the Houston Rockets, it was Winslow and Johnson who helped get the crowd ignited and in the second half of the game Miami fought back from a 20 point deficit to help win the game by 20 points.
Against the Toronto Raptors, those two also fueled a Miami stifling defense in the second half. In an interview with the SunSentinel, head coach Erik Spoelstra said this.
”That was really inspiring basketball in the second half. I think the second unit really sparked the energy of the entire team and everybody fed off that defensive energy.”
The bottom line is, people aren’t aware enough.
They don’t give chances to the people who are suited for it because they over complicate things. However to those who are intelligent enough to see productivity and potential together, are those who come away looking smarter. For the Heat, they once again have struck gold with two young players who have been overlooked and not overvalued.
D’Joumbarey A. Moreau covers sports in Miami-Dade & Broward County. You can follow him on Twitter@DJoumbarey.