Stanley Johnson, Justise Winslow more friends than rivals

The Detroit Pistons Stanley Johnson sizes up Miami Heat forward Justise Winslow during an NBA Summer League game in Orlando on July 6, 2015.
The Detroit Pistons Stanley Johnson sizes up Miami Heat forward Justise Winslow during an NBA Summer League game in Orlando on July 6, 2015. /

ORLANDO | The moment the Detroit Pistons passed on Justise Winslow for Stanley Johnson in last month’s NBA Draft, a rivalry of sorts was born.

It was a decision classified as a mistake by some. Johnson was a fine prospect, but Winslow was a key contributor to Duke’s run to the NCAA championship — you can’t pass that guy up if he falls to the eighth pick.

But that’s what happened as Stan Van Gundy went against the grain by selecting Johnson.

The idea of that rivalry is novel, in theory, but there’s one problem — neither Johnson nor Winslow see it that way.

“It was not important,” Johnson said of facing off against Winslow. “He’s another good player on the court and me and him are friends. We’ve played against each other since we were in third grade, so it’s nothing new to us.”

While the Pistons game against the Miami Heat was the marquee match up at the Orlando Pro Summer League on Monday, it was just another game for Winslow and Johnson.

The Heat won the game 78-73, but Johnson won the individual battle. The former Arizona swingman finished with an efficient 14 points on 4-of-5 shooting, grabbing seven rebounds and handing out two assists.

His counterpart Winslow didn’t shoot with the same efficiency, making just 5 of 15 shots, but still finished with a game-high 17 points to go with four rebounds.

Did he feel any extra motivation going up against Johnson?

“No,” Winslow said. “Me and him work out together. We played AAU together — (did) all the camps, all that. Between me and him, it’s trying to make each other better. We know we’re both top talents and when we’re out there between the lines, it’s a lot of trash talk, it’s a lot of toughness and just competing out there.”

Johnson, as he has throughout his three games in Orlando, did much of his damage off the ball. He wasn’t as explosive on the offensive glass as previous games, but he made the most of his offensive opportunities.

Even when the Heat trapped him around the perimeter, he stayed calm.

“They did a great job of giving me different looks. They went to the double — which I thought they would — nobody believe me. I thought they were going to that,” Johnson said. “What happens with the double team is, I don’t get a shot off, but I can make some hockey assists to great shots. I thought we got some great shots out of the double team, we knocked a few of them in, but we were just one shot short.”

Johnson felt like he handled the Heat double teams well. He said he avoided reverting to the “old me” which meant trying to break out of the double team himself.

Winslow was more point forward than small forward, running Miami’s offense throughout the game. His attacking style, coupled with some less-than-physical defense by Johnson, resulted in five first-half fouls for the Pistons rookie.

But Johnson adjusted as the game went on and played a clean second half.

“I didn’t do a good job getting into him,” he said. “I think he impacted the game for his team just being on the court.”

The players are complimentary of each other, and that’s no surprise considering they’re friends. Johnson said they’ve gotten dinner this week and Winslow said they were planning on seeing a movie.

And standing in the halls of the Amway Center after the game, Winslow may have summed it up best. As competitive as the duo was on the court, they’ll be just as competitive when they play FIFA at the hotel later in the night. That’s just how they are.

So, hey, maybe that rivalry does exist after all?