A strained left hamstring sidelined Heat guard Dwyane Wade for a fifth consecutive game on Friday night, but Heat players said he’s improving, and LeBron James said Wade “probably” will return “within the next week.”
There doesn’t appear to be concern about Wade’s availability for the start of the playoffs in two weeks.
But there is some uncertainty about a timetable. Udonis Haslem said Friday “it’s hard to tell” when Wade will play in a game again.
“He’s out there a few minutes at practice, not too heavy,” Haslem said. “He’s moving pretty well. He’s getting better. Hopefully, he’ll be back a couple of games before the playoffs. I’m sure that’s what he’s hoping for. It’s nothing we want to push. We need him for the playoffs.”
Said James: “He’s looking better and better every day. Testing out that Achilles [which caused him to miss a game on March 24] was something he didn’t want to push too far, or the hamstring. That’s something he’s been strengthening and conditioning. He’s getting back to where he needs to be.”
Wade has missed 24 games this season, with 15 of those attributed to maintenance on his knees. The good news for Wade is that his knees have not given him trouble in recent weeks.
After losing six of its first 11 games without Wade this season, the Heat has won 11 of its past 12 games when Wade has been absent.
But there will be another adjustment when Wade returns, and players are hopeful they can work through that before the playoffs start.
“It may be a little bit of a rhythm thing,” James said earlier this week.
“It’s something you can’t take for granted. Obviously, we’ve been together for almost four years now … [but] we haven’t played as much [this season as last season]. So see what happens when we get out on the floor. It’s going to be very challenging.”
this and that• Center Greg Oden missed his fifth consecutive game with back spasms.
• James said he does not want to sit out any of the remaining games, but coach Erik Spoelstra was noncommittal about whether he is on board with that.
“I’m taking everything day by day,” Spoelstra said.
If the Heat enters the final two games in play for the No. 1 seed, would that affect how many players Spoelstra rests? Spoelstra wouldn’t bite on that question either, saying: “We’ll get to that point when we get to that point.”
But Chris Bosh said: “I don’t think we have the luxury this year [to rest in late-season games]. At this point last year, we were well ahead for the No. 1 seed and were able to do what we do. Now it’s more of a race. … I gave hope up about rest a long time ago.”• Here’s how the remaining schedules compare for the Heat and Pacers in their battle for the No. 1 seed:
Heat: vs. Knicks, vs. Brooklyn, at Memphis, vs. Indiana, at Atlanta, at Washington, vs. Philadelphia.
Pacers: Atlanta, at Milwaukee, at Heat, Oklahoma City, at Orlando.• Spoelstra indicated that he doesn’t need clarity about his rotation heading into the playoffs.
With Haslem, Rashard Lewis and James Jones inserted back into the lineup recently amid injuries and other issues, every player except Justin Hamilton has received at least some meaningful minutes in the past month.
Entering Friday’s game, Lewis and Jones had been playing ahead of Shane Battier and Michael Beasley in the past week.
“Everybody has a role that can help us,” Spoelstra said. “In the playoffs, nobody remembers how many minutes you played. People just remember moments.”• Spoelstra called Minnesota coach Rick Adelman “the biggest influence in my life to get into coaching.” Spoelstra was a Trail Blazers fan growing up when Adelman coached the team.
• Either San Antonio or Oklahoma City very likely would have homecourt advantage against the Heat in a potential NBA Finals matchup. OKC finished 4-0 against the Spurs this season.
“The difference between OKC and Miami is you can look at Miami and say, ‘They’re going to win because they do everything right,’ ” TNT’s Shaquille O’Neal said.
“With OKC you have to say, ‘If their jumper is falling, then they’ll win. If they can score on the inside, then they’ll win. If [Thunder point guard] Russell Westbrook is playing under control, then they can win.’ ”