The maintenance program has officially started.
Officially, James skipped the season finale with the Knicks due to “tightness” in his right hamstring, according to Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, and Wade was out of action due a variety of minor injuries. Chalmers missed his third game in a row due to a sprained ankle.
“These are minor nicks and knacks that happen during the course of a season,” Spoelstra said.
Of course, not every team in the league has the luxury of sitting its best players due to minor ailments this time of year. The Knicks, for example, hurried center Tyson Chandler back into the starting lineup for Tuesday’s game after missing 10 games with a bulging disk in his neck. The Knicks were a game behind the Pacers in the loss column for second place in the Eastern Conference standings entering Tuesday night.
“We will get [Chandler] out there and see what he has,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said before the game.
Chandler only returned to contact drills during the Knicks practice on Monday.
Life is completely different for the Heat at this point in the season. The team is resting the best player in the league due to a minor soreness in his leg that didn’t seem to affect his game during or after the apparent injury.
According to Spoelstra, James tweaked his leg in the first quarter against New Orleans. He then drilled six three-pointers in the first half and finished with 36 points after three quarters of work. He didn’t play in the fourth quarter and has not played since.
“We want to make sure he’s healthy,” Spoelstra said. “He’s getting better. He’s making progress.”
The playing status of James, Wade and Chalmers is day-to-day. Spoelstra wouldn’t commit to playing the three players against the Bobcats on Friday.
The Heat’s starting lineup against the Knicks remained the same for Sunday’s game at San Antonio: Chris Bosh at power forward with Norris Cole, Mike Miller, Rashard Lewis and Udonis Haslem rounding out the starting lineup. The Heat defeated the Spurs 88-86 on a three-pointer by Bosh with 1.1 seconds left.
On Sunday, reserve Shane Battier referred to the pared-down lineup as the Fighting Clowns. On Tuesday morning, he called the Heat’s split squad “Expendables Part Three.”
“It is what it is and the expendables will be ready to go again [Tuesday night],” he joked.
Speaking seriously, Battier said a few days off at the end of a season doesn’t really change much in terms of preparing for the playoffs.
“For my money, I think it’s more mental than anything else,” Battier said. “Listen, you don’t feel good at the start of the playoffs. If you do, then you haven’t played hard enough during the regular season.
“So, you’re going to be banged up; you’re going to be sore and so you try to steal a few days here, but it’s much more important to take care of your body through the course of the season, which our guys have done. So I’m not worried about fatigue and injuries going into the playoffs.”