It was that Dwyane Wade felt no ill effects from banging knees with the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Kevin Martin Saturday night. During the Finals last season, a similar play with Manu Ginobili forced Wade's knee to swell up and it needed to be drained so he could play in Game 7.
“It’s OK,” Wade said. “Thank God.”
There will be intriguing and high-intensity moments along the way for the Heat in the regular season -- Tuesday’s game at the Indiana Pacers perhaps being one of them -- but nothing trumps the management of Wade’s knees. Having Wade reasonably healthy is perhaps the most important part of the first 82 games. It’s a principle the Heat consider every day.
So that Wade sat out his sixth game of the season to rest his knees Sunday was equally worthy of monitoring as the Heat avenging their loss to Detroit last Tuesday by winning 110-95.
“Everybody is on the same page about it, he’s going to get better quicker as the season goes on,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We want to be judicious early on so that he keeps making forward steps.”
After Wade was forced to miss two games last month after he tried playing in a back-to-back, the Heat have decided he just simply won’t do it for awhile, if they clear him at all this season. Wade sat out two losses last week when he knee started bothering him -- he also got sick -- and there wasn’t even a back-to-back involved. There are no back-to-backs in the postseason.
It’s far from an ideal arrangement, James even expressed a little frustration with it, saying: “It’s challenging for all of us, we played so well (Saturday) night and then we have to make a lineup change ... But every time he comes back out there he’s playing well and he’s moving well and you have to respect what he’s doing.”
It’s a deal the Heat have decided to make.
Wade is essentially still recovering from the wear and tear of last season. As he attempts to manage the chronic tendinitis that has limited him over the last few years, he got a shockwave procedure over the summer that is still taking effect. He’s been told the treatment takes about six months to truly start to work and Wade had it about five months ago.
“For me I’m looking for this next month, month and a half, they told me that the pain is supposedly to lessen,” Wade said. “Hopefully it gets to that point and it can be more consistent.”
When Wade has played, he’s looked healthy. He’s averaging 18.5 points, shooting 53 percent and has been an excellent distributor as Spoelstra has put him in lineups often without James. More important, he’s moved, jumped and generally looked much more spry than during the playoffs last season.
The following day, or two days, however, often are tough. That is what Wade and the Heat are thinking about when they shut him down, the hope being that once the play-every-other-day playoff schedules arrive, he’ll be ready.
“That is the plan they have set and I’m trying to stick to it,” Wade said. “They have the big picture in mind, they don’t want any setbacks.”
The Heat are just 3-3 this season when Wade hasn’t played after going 11-2 without him last season. That little bobble is one of the reasons the Pacers have a two-game lead on them six weeks in. It’s a little bit of a concern, which is why the Heat recently have been making calls to teams to see if they can get backcourt help or at least free up a roster spot to add a wing player later in the season, but losing a few games is a trade-off the Heat are willing to make.
Sunday they got a huge outing from the bench even with Michael Beasley sitting out with a hamstring issue. Roger Mason Jr. seems to have had a fire lit under him by the report that Heat were evaluating their guard options. He squeezed in nine points in less than five minutes of floor time Saturday and scored 12 more in the win over the Pistons. All in all, the Heat bench shot 15-of-24 and scored and 41 points.
Spoelstra didn’t want to start Ray Allen in Wade’s place because it would disrupt his successful bench rotation. He didn’t do it all last season or for the first four chances this season. But Allen relishes it, one of the reasons he left Boston was because his starting spot was in danger, and he scored 18 points to help solidify that role until the next time Wade needs a break.
It helped that the Pistons are decimated at the guard position right now as Rodney Stuckey, Will Bynum and Chauncey Billups are all out with injuries. Of course it helps when you have James put up a near triple-double with 24 points, seven rebounds and nine assists in just 35 minutes.
“It’s working,” Wade said. “I just want to get it better.”