The knee has taken longer to heal than Dwyane Wade, the Miami Heat or anyone else would have expected.
Four to six weeks was the projected recovery time. Training camp began Saturday, marking 11 1/2 weeks of Wade’s rehabilitation from arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. He will miss preseason games, perhaps all of them. He said Friday that his goal was to be ready for action Oct. 30, the day of the Heat’s season opener in Madison Square Garden.
For Wade, it’s a disappointing beginning to the Heat’s bid to repeat as NBA champion. This is the second preseason in the past two years Wade has spent time laboring over pain in his legs rather than playing, and last season, plantar fasciitis in his left foot nagged him often. He has had surgery on his left knee twice in the last four years and it swelled with fluid at the end of last season, forcing him to have it drained during the second round of the playoffs.
“I understand that it’s a process and I’m going to take that process and be … I’ve been here before, guys, so I know what to do. I’ll be all right,” Wade said to reporters Friday. “I went all the way around the block just to go next door.”
In other words, he put off surgery on his knee for far too long.
The Heat will not admit it publicly, but there are concerns among those in the organization about the second half of Wade’s Hall of Fame career. Reckless abandon on the court made him famous and made him rich and made him loved in his adopted city of Miami, but now it’s making him and the Heat refocus their expectations. Wade is only 30 years old, but it’s an old 30.
Wade expects himself — as does the Heat — to play well into his 30s and at a very high level. It might seem early in his career for such things, but the team has started an aggressive plan to preserve Wade’s body for the long term. Reduced minutes, scheduled off days and a repurposed skill set are all being considered.
It begins in earnest with this training camp.
Wade is noticeably heavier this preseason than the last, so dropping weight, strengthening his legs and core and allowing his knee to heal fully from surgery are the first priorities. Next will come a more intense level of conditioning and monitored minutes of scrimmage time.
“I’m just strictly looking at him big picture,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I don’t have a specific plan for him in training camp of how many days. We’re going to read and react to it.”
More days off likely
Although Spoelstra would like to have him back to full speed by Oct. 30, there is, in reality, no specific time crunch or deadline. Off days will be sprinkled into Wade’s rehab just as off days will dot his regular-season box scores. The ultimate goal is for Wade to be completely healthy and pain free after the All-Star break.
“When you feel good and you want to push it to the next level, sometimes that’s when it’s important to take the day off,” Spoelstra said.
Last season, Wade played 49 of the regular season’s 66 games. Convert that percentage to this season and that’s 22 games before the playoffs. By no means does Wade expect to miss that many regular-season games, but if he did, and you multiply those rest days over the next four years, that’s an entire season added on to Wade’s career.