If this were the postseason, then Dwyane Wade would be playing.
Wade has missed four straight games do to pain in his knee, and could miss Sunday’s game against the Spurs as well, but he indicated Saturday that he’s only missing games because, well, these games aren’t really that meaningful when weighed against protecting one of the best players in the NBA.
“The playoffs are different,” said Wade, who spoke to reporters Saturday for the first time since scratching himself from the lineup last week. “If this was the playoffs, I wouldn’t have been out.”
Wade went through some of the Heat’s practice drills Saturday and worked on his conditioning in preparation for the Spurs’ first game at AmericanAirlines Arena since Game 7 of the 2013 NBA Finals. A final decision on his playing status likely will not be made until about an hour before tipoff, which is set for 1 p.m.
“I don’t know,” Wade said when asked if he would play. “Today was a good day just being back on the court and [Sunday] we’ll see.”
Wade, who has missed 13 games this season, hasn’t played since scoring eight points in consecutive games against the Wizards and 76ers. Before that, he scored at least 20 points in 10 of 12 games. Despite the sudden drop-off in production and games on the bench, Wade wouldn’t call his latest block of rest a setback.
“At that time it was a setback,” Wade said, referring to a comment he made after playing the Sixers on Jan.17. “Now it’s not … At this point there ain’t no setbacks, it’s just what I’m dealing with.
“It’s what I’ve been dealing with all year. I don’t know how much back I can go, so it’s the same thing.”
Pain in Wade’s knee flared up last season during the Heat’s 27-game winning streak and didn’t subside until after the playoffs. He played through constant discomfort through the postseason and even self-produced a documentary about his struggles.
In the offseason, Wade underwent OssaTron shockwave treatment to stimulate healing in his knee, but one of the side effects, according others who have had the procedure, is tendinitis in the treated area that can last for months.
Wade said Saturday that swelling in his knee hasn’t been a problem, but, recently, the pain in his knee has been too significant to ignore. Sidelined to “kind of let my knee calm down a little bit,” Wade has worked out, “trying to continue to strengthen my legs and try to continue to strengthen my knees,” and also conditioning on a stationary bike.
Asked what triggered his most recent period of knee soreness, Wade pounded a fist into the palm of his hand as if to convey frustration.
“I wish I knew,” Wade said. “If I knew that, I would have tried to take care of it, but I really don’t know what sets it off. That’s what my trainers keep trying to figure out.”
Ray Allen has performed well as a starter in place of Wade and would start again Sunday if Wade were ruled out. To play, Wade must be cleared by trainers before every game.
“I’m mentally strong, so mentally you never have to worry about me,” Wade said. “I deal with that behind closed doors, mentally. Obviously it’s physical, but there is a big mental part of it, but I continue to keep grinding and continue to keep working until I feel like I can do what my body lets me do. That’s all I can do.”
The Heat, second in the Eastern Conference, is eight games ahead of third place Toronto. The cushion in the standings has taken some pressure off Wade and the Heat, but LeBron James said the ultimately luxury this season has been having players behind Wade such as Allen, Rashard Lewis and Michael Beasley.
“It definitely helps us,” James said.