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Apparently James Johnson did *not* come into training camp in the best shape of his life

We have that and more in Wednesday’s NBA newsletter.

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NBA: Miami Heat-Media Day Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Heat announced James Johnson failed conditioning tests at the start of training camp and had been sent away. This is a Miami Heat thing, something no other team seems to do. Miami runs itself like a fitness boot camp in some ways, and is really, really focused on nutrition and conditioning.

Johnson should know this better than anyone, because the Heat helped him transform his body to much acclaim a couple seasons ago when he arrived. It’s unsurprisingly difficult to keep that up when away from the program, but it’s noteworthy that Johnson is the only Heat holdover being singled out here.

To me, it’s so interesting the Heat have built a structure and accountability culture that they can do this without much drama despite being wholly average since 2014. Erik Spoelstra is a great coach and one of the most stable in the league. Pat Riley is Pat Riley, a legend in the flesh. Spo and Riley have full autonomy from ownership. But ... the Heat aren’t very good, yet they are able to maintain a team-player power differential that keeps drama at bay. Is that all gravitas and stability?

The players deserve credit for acting like adults and respecting the rules the Heat have put in place around fitness, too. You have to imagine the franchises more susceptible to tumult would love to figure out whatever the Heat are doing and mimic it.

The Sun always rises in the East

The Connecticut Sun beat the Washington Mystics in Game 2 of the WNBA Finals on Tuesday, and there are really two parallel and tensioned storylines. The first is that Jonquel Jones of the Sun had one of the best Finals games ever with 32 points and 18 rebounds. She just wrecked the Mystics on the offensive glass and in the paint more generally. The second is that Elena Delle Donne sat out most of the game with back spasms.

Focusing on the latter story negates how good the Sun are and were, focusing on the former story negates how important the WNBA MVP is to the Mystics. So you’ve got to acknowledge both.

Looking ahead, it’s unclear how much this will impact Delle Donne’s availability in the rest of the series, which will now go at least four games. The teams are off until Sunday, which should give Stics fans hope that Delle Donne can recover. But we’ll see.

Links

Damian Lillard went on Joe Budden’s show and explained why he considers himself a better rapper than Shaq, who sold a lot of records in the ‘90s. Shaq hit Dame with a diss track on Instagram. Dame came back hard, as he often does, to sprinkle napalm on Shaq’s Papa John’s. Dame’s cover art game is almost as good as his flow. What fortuitous timing! as there’s also a music-focused Dame profile in XXL.

The Rockets are in China, and James Harden busted out the one-legged shot in a preseason game there. He bricked, badly.

Arash Markazi on Angelenos booing Kawhi Leonard and Paul George because Angelenos vastly prefer the Lakers to the Clippers.

If you have a subscription to The Athletic, Sam Amick has a really good piece on the genesis of the Kings’ preseason trip to India. Meanwhile, De’Aaron Fox is keeping a trip diary for The Undefeated.

A philosopher’s argument against instant replay. I’m ... in?

On Tim Hardaway Jr.’s importance to the Mavericks.

How the NBA’s new coaches’ challenge actually works.

Chris Herring digs in on something I think about a lot, which is how the Nets will look before Kevin Durant comes back.

Kevin O’Connor on LeBron’s revenge season.

How Nate McMillan is evolving on load management.

Nike is increasingly embroiled in a PED scandal that is focused on elite distance running right now but could absolutely leak into other sports.

Important coda from last year on something I wrote about on Tuesday: Lindsay Gibbs explains that letting college athletes earn money from their likenesses will not destroy Title IX as the NCAA alleges.

Be excellent to each other.