And rookie makes three.
Heat 2014 first-round draft pick Shabazz Napier underwent surgery Wednesday for a sports hernia that will end his regular season. That makes the guard the third Heat player with season-ending medical issues, a hat trick of misfortune that includes big forwards Josh McRoberts (torn knee cartilage) and Chris Bosh (blood clots).
Unlike the previous two, the Heat relied on Napier purely for filler minutes. In his only game since March 9, Napier played nine minutes for an undermanned Heat team.
Now, the Heat heads out for a three-game, four-night road trip to Cleveland, Detroit and Indiana with center Hassan Whiteside’s right hand wrapped; forward Luol Deng nursing knee pain that makes him a game-time decision Thursday night in Cleveland; forward Udonis Haslem out with the flu; and guard Dwyane Wade fighting age and the tread wear of a long regular season with a recently drained knee.
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Still, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra gave the Heat a light day Wednesday — not a day off — after Tuesday’s 95-81 bruising (physically and in the standings) loss to San Antonio.
“Right now, it’s about us connecting, being together. [On Tuesday] night, all of us probably wanted to spend some time away,” Spoelstra said. “There wasn’t a lot of physical work [Wednesday]. It’s more about the connection and the communication together. When we get on that plane, hopefully we can do something special together this weekend.”
Whiteside said the day after playing with two fingers taped together on his right hand, “It hurts some. There’s not much I can do about it at this time. The flexibility in my hand isn’t there.”
He blamed the stiff hand for his turnover after making a beautiful in-stride spin move on a fast break around San Antonio ace defender Kawhi Leonard. While Leonard briefly looked like a man who found an empty parking space where he expected his car to be, Whiteside lost the ball before he could finish the break.
Leonard spent most of the night taking the ball from the Heat, with four steals, and sapping energy from Wade at both ends of the floor. Without Deng to deal with Leonard on the defensive end, “it wasn’t ideal at all,” said Wade, who played a hard 33:34.
Wade admitted that dealing with Leonard’s youth, strength and talent was a challenge: “No doubt about it. It takes a toll on you over a game. His job is just to try to deny me and stick to me. Every time I came in, I saw Coach Pop (Spurs coach Gregg Popovich) put him in to mirror me. It’s one of those games where it takes a lot out of you physically.”
Wade described how he handles non-game working days — “an off day to me is when you don’t see a gym” — at this point in his career.
“If you’re in the gym, you try to get at least one thing accomplished, even if it’s coming in and getting your body right,” Wade said. “If you’re up here on the floor, you try to do something small. Well, I do. Obviously, we shoot free throws, but something as simple as I just ended my free-throw game with my backboard touches, shooting off the glass. I’ve always been the kind of player, if I work on something, somehow, some way, I incorporate it into my game.”
Thursday: Heat at Cavaliers
Thursday: Heat at Cavaliers
When, where: 8 p.m., Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland.
TV, radio: TNT; WAXY 104.3 FM, 790 AM and WAQI 710 AM (Spanish).