MIAMI -- The last time Frank Kaminsky III saw Justise Winslow in a playoff setting, the former Duke Blue Devil was streaming past him as confetti poured down in celebration of a national championship.
A year later, Winslow didn’t stop to say hello.
The Miami Heat rookie received the ball on a fast break just outside the 3-point arc with about 9:30 left in the second quarter of Sunday’s Game 1 beatdown of the Charlotte Hornets. Kaminsky, the first defender back, rotated over to greet him outside the restricted circle. As they prepared to collide, Winslow took a hard step to the left of the flat-footed Kaminsky, slipped around him with another to the right and coasted to the rim for a lefty lay-in.
“The moment was perfect to give him a salute,” Winslow told reporters in Miami after the game. “I did the move facing our bench. It was cool to pay tribute, to pay respect for the mentorship we had the past six months.”
Kaminsky, known as much for his fun-loving “Frank The Tank” persona as his success with last year’s veteran-laden Wisconsin team, obviously wasn’t as thrilled to talk about seeing his national title game foe again.
“Just another year,” Kaminsky said. “I expected to be in this situation. He expected to be in this situation. It’s whatever.”
Kaminsky and Winslow will likely be linked for some time. Not only did Duke’s championship come at Kamisky’s expense, but the Hornets passed over Winslow, a dynamic freshman, to draft Kaminsky, a senior with a quality shot. Nine teams technically let Winslow pass, but ESPN’s Chris Forsberg reported soon after the draft that the Celtics were willing to shell out six picks to the Hornets, including four first-rounders, for the right to pick Duke’s human missile.
Winslow’s offensive production has been modest, but he’s already showing up on All-Rookie first team predictions because of his harassing wing defense. Kaminsky compiled a minus-1.14 real plus-minus as a rookie, which ranks 61st among NBA centers and 67th among power forwards.
In Game 1, Winslow, 20, had eight points (4-for-6), four rebounds (including three on offense), an assist and a block in 27 minutes. Kaminsky, 23, didn’t attempt a shot in 18 minutes, finishing with two assists, a rebound and a steal.
“Personally, I played timid the other night,” Kaminsky said. “I was playing to not make mistakes. I did that at times and it didn’t go well for me. I think that’s part of the reason why it didn’t go well for me last night.
“I don’t think I was intentionally passing up shots. I wasn’t necessarily in the right positions sometimes. I was overthinking a lot of things, just wasn’t where I needed to be in a lot of situations. I was messing up plays, doing things I haven’t done in a while. Some of the nerves got to me a little bit. Now that I have the one game under my belt, I don’t think it can go any worse than it did for me personally, so it’s all up-hill from here.”
While Kaminsky, as a four-year college player, has an edge in experience over every other lottery pick, his adjustment still has been significant. Most players, including Winslow, often slide down a position in today’s stretchy NBA, but Kamisky moved up, from center to power forward. Cody Zeller flies around setting screens for the four shooters in Charlotte’s spread-out opening look, and Kaminsky, a 7-footer, often receives the bulk of his minutes creating space for Al Jefferson’s foxtrots in the post.
He admitted the transition “didn’t go over well at the start.”
“In college, playing the 5, you can kind of back in,” he said. “There’s not too many big men that can shoot in college. But you come into the NBA, you’re playing the 4 [where] everyone’s a shooter. Everyone can put the ball on the floor. So you have to be vigilant at so many different things. You really got to pay attention to personnel, scouting reports, things like that so you can be successful.
“Transitioning to the offensive end wasn’t the difficult part for me. It was all the defensive concepts and things like that. Once I understood the concepts, that’s started to translate to individual players, and our team game plan just got easier and easier. But still. There’s still a lot I have to learn.”
Now he's hoping the hard lessons from last year don't continue to affect the Hornets' future.
“This is the NBA, that was college,” he said. “I’ve said it all year. It’s a whole ‘nother intensity level, whole ‘nother skill level. Everything is amplified.”