Miami Heat

Justise Winslow on working in Hollywood and playing point guard

Justise Winslow of the Miami Heat spoke about his Hollywood projects, expectations for a breakout season, playing point guard and much more.

Whether he has a basketball or a camera in his hands, Justise Winslow is a creative type.

Those in South Florida consider last season somewhat of a breakout year for Winslow. During a key stretch starting in mid-December, Winslow took over for injured point guard Goran Dragic and thrived. Last season, he averaged 12.6 points and 4.3 assists per game — both career highs. Despite the addition of Jimmy Butler and the presumed health of Dragic and Dion Waiters, Winslow expects to build on that momentum in his fourth season.

He’s also building a business. The Step Back caught up with Winslow as he wraps up a summer in California, where spent time in Hollywood interning for LeBron James’ production company, directing music videos for former teammates and organizing an art exhibit for an event close to home.

As part of the “Call Your Shot” campaign with CarMax, he also talked about the skills he is working on for next season and his thoughts on how Butler will fit in with a Miami Heat team trying to make a playoff run.

The following conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Wes Goldberg: What else have you been getting involved in this summer? Take any trips? What’s your summer routine like now that you’ve been in the league for a few years?

Justise Winslow: Yeah, I started with a few trips. Some vacations with family and friends. Obviously a lot of basketball.

I’ve been out here in L.A. so been doing more in the film world and photography. From that standpoint, just networking and meeting people out here. Conducting a few projects. It’s been really cool just being out West in the Hollywood area and just getting that vibe.

Goldberg: Is this the first time you’ve gone out to California for the summer? Because I know you’ve been interested in art and stuff like that in Miami.

Winslow: Yeah, this is the first time I’ve really spent an extended amount of time in L.A.

Goldberg: So what sort of things are you getting involved in?

Winslow: I got an internship with SpringHill Entertainment. I conducted, directed and produced a music video for a friend in L.A. that we’re going to release soon. Just a lot of projects, you know.

I’m putting together an exhibition of art and maybe some other visuals for Art Basil in Miami this fall/winter. Preparing for that, getting all my artists together and helping them understand the vision for the whole exhibition. It’s been a lot of different stuff. My friend, helping him make his debut album he released on July 4. Just doing a lot of creative stuff, whether it’s designing my own clothing line now and figuring all that stuff out and going to factories.

There’s been a lot of basketball but there’s also been a lot of creativity going on while I’ve been here.

Goldberg: Who is the artist that you’re working with on the album and music video?

Winslow: Brennan Besser. He actually walked on at Duke and he graduated this spring from Duke. But the album is titled “Besser.”  That’s his last name. I produced and directed the music video for that, too, one of the songs “5am Grind.”

I’ll be releasing that soon, so it’s been a cool summer, just hanging out with him. He’s super smart, he’s pretty good at everything he does, being able to walk on at Duke is special in itself so it’s been a lot of fun being around him for a lot of the summer.

Goldberg: How much of being around a guy like Dwyane Wade who has built this business around himself, how much did being around him either inspire you or motivate you? Or did he give you any pointers as far as these things go, or were you always doing this on your own?

Winslow: I’ve always had that creativity and I’ve always wanted to do these things, but just the little tips and pointers he’s given me on just making the most of my window. I’m only going to be a professional athlete for a short amount of time, so to make the most of that window and make the most of the connections I have while I still have this success and this fame and this platform to do so.

But everything from building your brand on the court and off the court, good to know those business relationships and partnerships with different companies, it’s been very helpful to have him guiding me through this whole process of being a professional and brand build and how to conduct business, because the ball is going to stop bouncing one day. Just understanding that and trying to set up myself and my family for life after basketball.

Goldberg: You spending any time with him out there in L.A.?

Winslow: Yeah. He had his second annual D-Wade Invitational down in Orange County. I attended that. He works out at the gym right next to mine so sometimes I run into him. So I’ve seen him a couple of times.

Goldberg: A lot of people considered last year a breakout year for you. You had the ball in your hands more, your scoring went up. But did you see it as a breakout season for you?

Winslow: I wouldn’t necessarily say breakout. I think I definitely started to trend more in the right direction. Especially once the team kind of figured out the best place for me and my playmaking skills to best fit the team.

But I think this year I’m going to continue to make a lot more noise throughout the league. I really didn’t see it too much as a breakout. Yes, my numbers were solid, they definitely increased from the year before, but I think this year there’s going be a very exciting [jump] to watch.

Goldberg: You haven’t had a breakout season yet. You think this might be your breakout season.

Winslow: No, I haven’t. I haven’t had it yet.

Goldberg: Like you said, last year, the Heat figured out that you’re very comfortable with the ball in your hands and getting your teammates involved. Regardless of who is labeled the point guard, do you anticipate that you will still have the ball in your hands? Because a lot of things have changed this summer.

Winslow: Yeah I think I’ll have the ball in my hands a lot. Just getting Goran [Dragic] back and getting someone like Jimmy [Butler] back, I still believe that I’m one of the top playmakers in the league, being able to create for myself and obviously for my teammates. I don’t expect much to change, if anything maybe have the ball in my hands more this year.

Being able to make plays for others, like I said, is something I really enjoy doing. I’m not selfish with the ball in my hands. My teammates like playing with me. So I’m looking forward to having the ball in my hands more this season.

Goldberg: I know you’ve seen on Heat Twitter the hashtag #PointJustise. What do you think of that hashtag?

Winslow: That’s what it is. That’s basically how I played growing up. I went to a small private school, St. John’s, and I had to do everything. Bring the ball up the court, guard the other team’s best player, sometimes guard their center, whatever it may be.

I’ve always been comfortable with the ball in my hands. Going to Duke, I didn’t have it as much, playing with Tyus [Jones].

But I consider myself a point guard and I see that as my future in the NBA.

Goldberg: In past summers, you’ve talked about working on your jump shot. Last year it seemed to have come along. Is that still an area of focus for you this summer, and what are the other things you’re trying to work on?

Winslow: For sure. Last year, I think people started to catch on a little late, so I think this year there’s going to be less air space. I got to continue to work on getting my shot off quicker as guys start to tighten, but also with less space on the 3-point line, I’m more likely to just go to the basket and get to my natural strength.

So just continue to work on that and just working on my creativity and my playmaking. My ability to attack a defender one-on-one, I feel like that’s something I definitely can improve on from last year. Continue to work my reads in pick-and-rolls, continue to work on my passing and my mid-post, isolation game.

Goldberg: How do you think adding Jimmy Butler is going to change the team?

Winslow: I don’t expect it to change the team too much. Jimmy is obviously an All-Star caliber player so that’s going to be great having another talented person on the roster. But honestly our game isn’t going to change. It’s still going to be tough-minded, defensive-minded, gritty, hard-working team. Other teams are going to have to earn their wins against us.

Whereas Josh [Richardson] was getting a lot of shots last year, I’m sure Jimmy will pick up that load, but I don’t expect too much to change. I feel like we added a really talented player, we also got Meyers Leonard from Portland, we’re going to get Goran back, he’s going to continue to get back to where he was the previous season. James Johnson, Derrick Jones, Bam [Adebayo], I feel like we have a lot of versatile guys off of the bench.

I feel like the team dynamic isn’t going to change too much, but we’re just adding a couple of players, swapping some out.

Goldberg: You and Josh were close. You called each other Rook 1 and Rook 2 when you entered the league. Was losing him tough?

Winslow: It was tough, definitely weird. I didn’t see that one coming, but it’s a business and you have to understand that. I’m going to enjoy having a new teammate in Jimmy, but me and Josh are going to be brothers for life, forever.

You know, we came into the league together and pretty much did everything together for the first four years of our careers, so that bond is pretty unbreakable and our friendship isn’t going anywhere.

Goldberg: It seems like players these days are able to maintain relationships no matter what teams they’re playing on.

Winslow: Yeah I mean for the most part guys, we have our private lives, but for the most part, we’re extremely similar. We just love to play basketball, so there’s that automatic bond. There’s certain things basketball players seem to do in their free time. Joke around, mess around, play video games, so the bond is pretty easy to create.

And we’re all pretty much large, in-our-20s males, so that age similarity and everything that comes with it just makes it easier to for us to get along and build that chemistry.

Going from team to team is definitely hard, especially when you have families established, a wife and kids, but you build that connection with your teammates and having your teammates there makes those transitions easier.

Goldberg: It sounds like you’re really optimistic about this season. The goal is to be one of the top teams in the East, right?

Winslow: For sure but, as you saw last year, the East is extremely competitive, especially at the top, and that’s where our team is looking to go. We just got to keep improving day by day, but our goal is to definitely get home court in the first round.

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It’s not going to be easy. You’ve got teams like Boston and Philly and obviously Milwaukee. They’re at the top. But you never really know. People were kind of writing it to be the Celtics in the Finals last year and we saw all that happened. You never want to just write teams off or just hand the championship to Golden State. Injuries happen, trades happen, frustrations of the season happen.

We’re going to go out there, we’re going to have to play hard every night, practice hard, keep improving on our off days, but I really think this is going to be a great year for us to make a deep run in the playoffs.

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