The Miami Heat sent one of their veterans home from training camp on Monday after he failed to meet their conditioning requirements — a rare move in the NBA.
Heat forward James Johnson, who was at the team’s media day on Monday, was sent home from camp in order to focus on his conditioning. The former No. 16 overall draft pick with 10 seasons under his belt, however, was not fined or suspended.
“The Miami Heat announced today that James Johnson will miss the beginning of camp because he fell short of our conditioning requirements,” the Heat said in a statement, via the Miami Herald. “Once he fulfills and maintains those requirements, he will rejoin the team.”
While it’s obviously not the start to the season the Heat wanted for their two-time captain, coach Erik Spoelstra said Johnson is “still very much a part” of the team. He didn’t provide any sort of timeline, however he said he hopes the 32-year-old rejoins the team soon.
“It’s disappointing,” Heat big man Udonis Haslem said, via the Miami Herald. “You want everybody here, you want to start camp off on a good note. I had a conversation with JJ for about an hour. We’re all on the same page, he understands what he needs to do.
“I love JJ like a brother, like I told him, it’s not easy, it’s not easy for any of us … This organization is not for everybody. If you fall in line and do the things they ask you to do, you can become a champion. Hopefully he’ll figure it out and we get him back soon.”
Johnson is entering the third year of his four-year, $60 million deal with the Heat, but is coming off his worst season with the organization. He missed the first 15 games last season while recovering from a sports hernia surgery last May, and quickly lost his spot in the starting lineup. He finished the year averaging just 7.8 points and 3.2 rebounds while playing 21.2 minutes per game in 55 contests — all career lows in Miami.
Both Johnson and Spoelstra, however, sounded extremely positive on Monday. Johnson said he felt like his conditioning was great and he was entering the season “mentally unstressed,” ready to “get back to where I was.”
“He’s been very serious about his work this summer,” Spoelstra said on Monday, via the Miami Herald. “You can see it in our conditioning day. He did a great job with that. James, to be the best version of himself, has to have a clear mind. For him to impact the game, conditioning is a big part of it. And he wasn’t healthy last year.
“He’s a really unique two-way basketball player in his ability to guard one through five when he’s healthy and his ability to facilitate and make other players better form a hybrid frontcourt position is unique. That’s his best version, he’s coming in with a clear head. He’s coming in healthy.”
Though being sent home can’t be good for Johnson’s confidence, he still has plenty of time to get back in shape and rejoin the team before the season starts. The Heat host the first of five preseason games next week, and don’t open the season until Oct. 23 when they host the Memphis Grizzlies.
Even with the latest setback, Haslem was still fully confident in Johnson’s abilities on the court.
“There’s nothing JJ can’t do on a basketball court,” Haslem told the Miami Herald. “He can handle, he can shoot it, he can make plays, he can defend, he can rebound. He’s one of the more versatile players in the league. I’m going to keep in touch with him. I told him I’ll be calling him every day, checking in on him.”
More from Yahoo Sports: