Dwyane Wade already has missed seven games this season because of injury, but that doesn’t detract from a more encouraging number: four.
That’s the number of times Wade has now played in back-to-back games after competing against the Knicks and Wizards on Sunday and Monday. The Heat’s shooting guard only played three back-to-backs last season.
Proactively keeping himself healthy and in top shape, including long hours preparing for the second night of back-to-backs, is now a major part of Wade’s routine. That hasn’t always been the case, of course.
“The biggest difference when he first got to us when he was 21 years old, he would lace up his shoes and play,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Now he has to put in hours and hours of work behind the scenes just to get ready to compete.”
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In his 12th season, Wade now appreciates all the advice from veteran players he once took for granted.
“You just got to spend more prep time on your body more so than anything,” Wade said. “It’s not even about the opponent as much as it is about just spending time on your body. I heard that from guys before when I was younger, but you’re not really understanding it until you get to that point.
“But if you want to continue to be good and continue to play this game at a high level, you have to do it all.”
Actress Gabrielle Union created some buzz Sunday night when she interjected herself into husband Wade’s postgame TV interview at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Union emphasized Wade’s return from a strained hamstring that put him out of action for seven games.
“Wow, to come back with 27 points,” Union said. “We’re going to talk about the free throws later.”
Union then slapped Wade on the backside while adding, “He did good for an old geezer. It’s nice. It’s good.”
The video made the rounds on the Internet and ESPN’s SportsCenter.
“She knows her sports,” Wade said before Monday’s game in Washington. “She knows her basketball, so it’s a good house of sports where everyone knows their sports a little bit.”
Wade went 11 of 18 from the field and 5 of 9 from the free-throw line. He finished strong, scoring 13 points in the fourth quarter.
“Just to get him back out there,” Spoelstra said. “Even if he hadn’t done that in the fourth quarter, that’s what makes him special. He rises to the occasion in the biggest moments. Even if he wasn’t feeling great, he said he felt like the 32 minutes felt like 50 minutes, but he found a way to dig deep, and that’s what great players do.”
Before the game at Verizon Center, Spoelstra was asked to take stock of his team at this point in the season.
“Hopefully, we’re going to continue to take strides and take it a couple levels up,” he said. “We do have some variety and versatility with this team. We’re trying to develop a defense toughness and a commitment to that side of the floor, and that’s taking some time.”
The Heat held the Knicks to 35.2 percent shooting Sunday night, which Spoelstra said was a good sign with Wade back in the lineup. Defensive consistency remains elusive for the Heat, however, and the offense remains a work in a progress.
Entering Monday night’s game, the Heat was ranked first in the NBA in three-point shooting percentage (38.6 percent) but 22nd in total points and 18th in assists. The Heat’s offensive rating was 13th in the league before playing the Wizards.
“Offensively we do have versatility, and that’s one of our strengths,” Spoelstra said. “We just need to get our guys out there and getting used to playing and sharing the ball.”