The Summer of Johnson

Tyler Johnson Speaks On His Free Agency Process
by Couper Moorhead
HEAT.com

Two years ago Tyler Johnson was an undrafted free agent with no guarantees. He could have easily been another Summer League prospect who came and went before finding his way overseas. But that wasn’t the Tyler Johnson way.

First he played his way into Summer League minutes. Then he earned a spot on Miami’s D-League team the Sioux Falls Skyforce. By the midway point of his first season, he was up in the big leagues on a 10-day contract. Then another. Finally he was signed for the rest of the season.

As Erik Spoelstra often said of Johnson, “He just makes you play him.”

A little over a year later Johnson found himself in restricted free-agency, where he could sign with another team but the HEAT would retain the right to bring him back into the fold. So, during the first week of July he took meetings with potential suitors.

“You go through that similar in college but this is a whole ‘nother level of it,” Johnson said.

“I was trying to do what was best for my family, but at the same time you have to consider the relationships that you’ve built, what it’s taken for me to get here, and people I’ve gotten here with. So it was a lot of mixed emotions.”

Johnson elected to sign an offer with the Brooklyn Nets, putting the onus on Miami to make a decision. The entire time was Johnson – who tweeted “Anxiety setting in lol” during the process – hoping Miami would bring him back?

“Of course,” Johnson said. “This is where I’m most comfortable. This is where I’ve found my way in the league. This is where my friends are at. These are the people that I’ve gone through battles with.

“At the end of the day I was still hoping I could figure out a way to come back and be in a HEAT uniform.”

A big reason for that, he said, was that he appreciated being in a position to win and, as a young and relatively unproven player, have a chance to contribute to that winning.

“We had an opportunity to make the playoffs,” Johnson said. “I think that we can use that experience and grow from it. Not a lot of times you get to come to an organization where winning is above all else and you’re put in an opportunity to be successful.”

Speaking in a back hallway at Summer League in Las Vegas, Johnson’s plan is to return to Miami after the trip and return to his offseason focus of getting his body healthy. Following shoulder surgery in early February, Johnson returned to the active list during the HEAT’s playoff run but, he says, wasn’t even close to being 100 percent.

Even with a different, younger roster awaiting him back in Miami, Johnson said things like a potential starting role don’t matter to him.

“I’m going to go in and do the same thing, and I’m going to be healthy,” he said. “I remember how I was playing at the beginning of the season last year. I’m excited to be able to get back to that and show people that not only do I deserve it but in a couple of years they’re going to say they got me for a steal.”

For now, however, with stability in hand and no further surgeries scheduled, Johnson can enjoy the rest of the offseason anxiety-free.

“I’m glad that the whole thing is over.”