At one point this season, LeBron James actually cared about the Heat finding a consistent rhythm before the playoffs. Now, James just wants his team to make to the finish line as healthy as possible.
With the top spot in the Eastern Conference standings up for grabs on Monday, the Heat once again with an unconventional starting lineup and a secondary rotation. One thing is certain at this point for the defending back-to-back champions, everything will surely change between now and the playoffs.
Dwyane Wade sat out his 22nd game of the season Monday against the Toronto Raptors and the Heat went with a starting lineup of Toney Douglas, Mario Chalmers, James, Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem. It was the second time this season that particular piecemeal starting lineup has been used. In all, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has used 19 different starting lineups this season.
“It is what it is,” James said. “There’s nothing you can do about it. You got to worry about what you can control. What we can control is the guys that are in the lineup that are playing.”
In addition to Wade sitting out, Greg Oden missed his third game in a row and Ray Allen, who is battling an illness, was not with the team. Allen did not travel with the Heat on his recent road trip to Indianapolis, Detroit and Milwaukee and has missed four consecutive games.
“I worried about it before, but at this point it’s something you can’t control. You go out and whoever has a uniform, that’s who you roll with, and you wait for the other guys to get ready.”
Oden was out with a lower-back injury, according to the team. The injury occurred during the first half of the Heat’s loss to the Indiana Pacers last Wednesday. The 7-foot center started the game against Pacers center Roy Hibbert and was thoroughly dominated before being pulled in favor of Haslem.
Haslem has now started three consecutive games and could remain in the starting lineup when Oden returns from injury.
“You want to have a rhythm going into the playoffs,” James said. “I’ve always wanted to have a rhythm going into the playoff with the lineups and the flow, but this is a different season. This season is very different than any other I’ve been a part of. So, you take it as it is.”
Spoelstra didn’t seem overly concerned with the team finding a rhythm between Wade and James before the playoffs.
“It will come back and it will come back quicker, but you can never take the process for granted,” Spoelstra said. “There is always going to be a process of incorporating guys and getting them used to playing together and getting our team to collaborate.
“Our team is built different. Those guys have played so many minutes together, yes it will happen quicker, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be a process to it.”
Wade did not join the Heat on the bench for the team’s final regular season game against the Raptors. Instead, Wade rehabilitated his injured hamstring behind the scenes and was scheduled to be reevaluated on Tuesday. Originally subbed out for leg cramps against the Pacers last Wednesday, Wade was listed with strained left hamstring on Monday.
“He was able to do some things this morning,” Spoelstra said. “We will have to see how he responds tomorrow.”
Spoelstra said Allen was not being quarantined from the team due to his stomach illness, but added that Allen “has just been wiped out” this past week.
“His family was struck by it first,” Spoelstra said. “It has been a tough bug for him, but he is starting to work his way back.”