The kneecap is moving, banging against the bone bruise, causing one of the best shooting guards in NBA history to average 11.3 points in a playoff series against his hometown team.
Dwyane Wade revealed information about his injured right knee late Monday that he probably would rather have kept private but was forced to divulge after taking a hit in the second quarter and going to the bench. Once there, team trainer Jay Sabol slid Wade’s kneepad downward to reveal a large bandage across his knee. Wade said after the game that the bandage was being used to stabilize his knee in a most unorthodox way — a field dressing of sorts for a basketball star.
“You have a bruise, you try to move the kneecap over so it won’t rub and the tape comes off a little bit when you get the game sweat, so you have to retape it a little bit,” Wade said.
So, it has come to this — moving kneecaps to reduce pain with still one more series until a possible return trip to the NBA Finals. Wade knocked his knee with Bulls defender Jimmy Butler’s and went spinning to the ground in pain during Game 4.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was noncommittal Tuesday about Wade playing in Game 5 on Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena, but Wade said Monday night he expected to play.
“There’s really nothing that you can do,” Wade said. “I’ve tried to exhaust all possibility, but it is what it is.”
Said teammate LeBron James: “We’ve got his back as a team and then me, I’m definitely going to pick it up even more because I know what he’s going through. I’m around him each and every day and then at night in the games. It was difficult for him, but he hasn’t made any excuse. He’s just trying to give us what he’s got right now until he starts to feel better.”
PLAYING WITH PAIN
Wade is in serious pain, but as long as he can manage it, he apparently is OK medically to play as much as he can stand the discomfort. He took only a brief break on the bench after aggravating his knee in the first half Monday — long enough to allow the “shooting pain” to subside and, of course, reposition his kneecap with tape and bandages.
“Some days are better than others,” Wade said. “There’s certain games I might do a move or do something and the shooting pain might come up. This was the first time you all have seen it. Other times I’ve been able to not show you all. But like I said, I came back and helped my team win.”
Can the Heat win a title with Wade far below 100 percent physically and performing like a role player grinding through minutes rather than a superstar who can change a game in an instant? It’s a valid question because the Heat looked to be in dire straits in the 2012 playoffs when Wade’s left knee was in such bad shape that fluid needed to be drained. The Heat fell behind the Indiana Pacers before winning the series in six games.
Spoelstra is confident Wade will still be effective.
“He’s a battler, he’s a warrior, he’ll fight through it, and he never makes excuses for anything and he’s giving us everything he’s got and he’s giving us minutes that help us win — that’s the bottom line,” Spoelstra said of Wade. “I know everyone’s looking at how many shots he’s getting up and how many points he can score. He’s at a point where he knows every series is different, every game is different and the whole point is help us win and he’s doing that.”
Wade had six points in Game 4, and his lack of explosion has taken away his ability to get to the basket. In the series, Wade is 1 of 2 from the free-throw line.
“Is he coming in there and creating 30 a night? No, but he’s creating a lot of good things for us, defensively he’s competing, giving us a presence from the perimeter position to help rebound,” Spoelstra said. “And then offensively he’s making the right plays and oftentimes that’s to throw it back and let the ball start moving, so he’ll continue to get in better rhythm. He had some good actions [Monday night] that hopefully we can lean and build on for Wednesday.”
PICKING UP THE SLACK
For now, it’s up to players such as Chris Bosh, Ray Allen, Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers to carry the load for Wade.
Last year, despite his knee injury, Wade helped propel the Heat past Indiana when Bosh was out with an abdominal injury. It appears Bosh is now doing his part to account for Wade’s lack of production. After his 20-point, 19-rebound effort in Game 3, Bosh made seven of his first eight shots in Game 4. With Wade going 0 of5 from the field to begin the game — and 3 of 10 overall — the Heat needed Bosh to be on his game.
Said James: “When one guy goes down, another guy has to step up or the same guys just step up more, and we know that D-Wade is battling an injury right now and he’s nowhere near 100 percent, so everyone has to step up.”