OAKLAND -- Micro pulses of stimulating electricity rehabilitated LeBron James’ thigh and calf muscles after Tuesday’s game against the Phoenix Suns while he recounted his latest gravity-defying dunk.
Near James’ locker stall, Chris Andersen jokingly pushed reporters out of the way so he could get dressed. Next to Andersen’s locker, Shane Battier chatted with reporters and next to Battier, newcomer Toney Douglas talked shop with Ray Allen.
In other words, it was just a typical night on the road for the team. Of the Heat’s 15 players, only Dwyane Wade was absent from the postgame locker room scene. A chronic sufferer of migraine headaches, Wade had an episode on Tuesday morning and missed the victory against the Suns because of fatigue.
Wade didn’t start Wednesday night and wasn’t expected to play against Golden State because of a sore foot. He was replaced in the lineup by Douglas.
With the All-Star break officially here, the most significant development of the regular season for the Heat isn’t the No. 2 position in the Eastern Conference standings, or, as coach Erik Spoelstra likes to say, the team’s commitment to defensive purity. The Heat is completely healthy heading into the season’s home stretch and ready for the postseason push.
There couldn’t be a more positive sign for the defending back-to-back champs at this point in the season.
“With 30-something games left, hopefully we’ll have an even better time with guys being healthy as we get ready for the playoffs as we start getting our game ready,” Wade said. “So, it has been a pretty good first half of the season with our coaches and the team being on the same page and not having anything major happen to us yet.”
Wade pointed to better lines of communication between players and the coaching staff compared with years past.
“You’ve got an older team and guys who have been playing into late June for multiple years in a row, and no team has played more basketball than these individuals in here, so you have to be a little smarter and understand that the body will shut down when the body wants to,” Wade said.
“You have to listen to your body a little bit, and I think we’ve done that this year.”
Entering Wednesday’s game, Wade has missed 14 games this season, mostly to rest his right knee. Battier and Michael Beasley have also missed significant time to prevent strained muscles from lingering.
James is averaging a career low in minutes per game (37.3). The cautious approach of trainers and Spoelstra was planned before the season.
“We have guys who have been healthy, who are getting better, who made strides during the course of the season,” Spoelstra said.
James has played more basketball than anyone over the past two years, and the extra mileage, not to mention his wedding and extended honeymoon in the offseason, contributed to some inconsistencies on defense early in the season. But James has rounded into shape leading up to the All-Star break. He had five steals, including two that sprung him for dunks in transition on Tuesday against Phoenix.
“I’m feeling really good right now,” James said. “My legs are starting to come back to me, and I’m able to get out on the break much faster right now.
The Heat had 12 steals overall against the Suns and forced 16 turnovers for 24 points.
“It helps when we’re able to load our defense and I’m able to be a recipient of guys putting pressure on the ball,” James said. “I was able to get a couple [steals]. We want to create turnovers and put pressure on the ball and pressure on the weak side and, when we have an opportunity, guys shoot the gaps.”
Expect that type of intensity more often during the final third of the season.