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Justise Winslow refining his game on his terms in Summer League

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The lottery pick is getting familiar with the NBA game in Summer League while learning how he can maximize his talents on a deep team.

Surya Fernandez

Justise Winslow isn't on the Miami Heat's Summer League squad to fill up the box score.

Instead, the first round pick -- considered by many to be the steal of the NBA draft after he unexpectedly fell to the Heat at the No. 10 spot -- has been using his Summer League playing time to get adjusted to the NBA game and get a feel for what his role will be like in the regular season.

While the results on paper haven't been as dazzling in Las Vegas as they were in Orlando, his individual numbers are largely inconsequential given the fact that he has been playing limited minutes. While the stats don't nearly begin to describe the basketball education Winslow is receiving, every minute on the court is a learning experience he can use moving forward.

"I've seen him pick up quite a bit on both sides of the floor," said coach Dan Craig. "He's somebody that you only need to tell something to once and it registers and it soaks in. I think just him just fast-tracking himself offensively and defensively with hearing and seeing things for the first time and not having to hammer it over and over again with him is pretty impressive."

Tuesday's blowout loss to the Boston Celtics, in which Winslow again played sparingly in what Craig referred to as an ongoing maintenance plan, was another crash course on how to handle adversity. His defense was solid but he had three turnovers and three turnovers and didn't look for his shot nearly as much as he had in Orlando. He ended up turning his ankle in the second half that knocked him out for the rest of the game in what may have appeared to have been a frustrating experience, but he refused to give any excuses for his performance and instead focused on what he's learning.

"Just trying to get used to the game, it's a lot different," said Winslow on his time so far in Summer League. "Different rules, different pace, a lot more athletic guys so I think I'm just trying to get used to the NBA game as far as the pace and the speed of it, making different reads offensively and defensively.

"There's a lot more rotations, a lot more things defensively you can try to do, some things you're limited to because of ‘three seconds' but a lot of rotations on defense, when you want to do things is something you see a lot more in the pro level just because you've got guys that are really specialists at what they do. So you've got to try to take them out of that so that's probably the biggest thing so far."

With teammates including Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Goran Dragic as well as offensive-minded reserves such as Amar'e Stoudemire and Gerald Green that will play with him in the coming months, the rookie's role obviously won't be to carry his team's offense. As is the case with any Heat player, he is expected to put forth maximum effort on defense and that remains one of his strongest attributes, along with his versatility.

"You can evaluate his games when he's played the entire game and he's shown that he's pretty capable of being very versatile in the system we're looking to play," said Craig. "So I think you can take some good things from what he's done in Orlando, and in Vegas he hasn't played much but he's had a couple of games under his belt where he's shown us he can do some things in a very versatile way — offensively and defensively."

Erik Spoelstra has referred to Winslow in the past as a Swiss Army knife and Craig has been playing him everywhere on the floor to mix and match how to best maximize his wide-ranging skill set.

"It definitely helps," said Winslow on playing multiple positions. "This game (against the Celtics), we focused a lot on the post and trying to get me the ball in the post. Right now, I'm just trying to see within the offense and the stuff we do where I can be successful so when I go back home, working out more specifically on those areas is something I'll do."

The goal, according to Winslow, is to figure out how he can best compliment his veteran teammates in order to get the most out of the team. Exerting his body through a tough schedule featuring games at an almost daily pace by attempting to take over his squad's offensive workload would accomplish little in the long run. Getting a clear understanding of his new team's offensive and defensive principles before meshing with his teammates in training camp remains the top priority. In many ways, the setbacks now will arguably prove to be more beneficial later on when the games matter so he can learn from his mistakes and refine his game.

Ignoring any sort of pressure of trying to prove worthy of his high draft pick, Winslow instead prefers to play within himself and within the flow of the game.

"You just try to be yourself no matter who you are out there," he said. "You don't try to prove anything or let pressure get to you. Everyone is trying to be (themselves) and play together."

The whirlwind nature of his life since being drafted and then immediately hitting the Heat's practice court running before Summer League may be taxing mentally and physically, but it's what drives the 19-year-old.

"No, it's fun," he insisted. "It's what I signed up for. I'm used to it playing basketball at Duke. It's nothing new to me — the travel and everything happening so fast. It's been pretty much my lifestyle the past two years so it's a lot of fun being out here playing Summer League so I can't complain."