Justin Hamilton was patient zero.
The flu bug running through the Heat’s locker room started with the Heat’s backup center, or so he says, and has worked its way through the team.
By Friday evening in Salt Lake City, seven players had struggled through the illness, with Dwyane Wade being the latest player affected. Wade did not attend the team’s shootaround Friday morning but opted to play against the Utah Jazz in the Heat’s final game of a five-game trip.
After all, the Heat needs all the help it can get these days.
“You control what you can control, and the challenge now for us is to find consistency in an inconsistent landscape,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Wade, who is prone to migraine headaches, received therapy on his legs during pregame with a large black cloth over his eyes. He scored just 10 points Wednesday in Denver and had 16 points Tuesday night against the Phoenix Suns.
Including Wade and Hamilton, Luol Deng, Chris Andersen, Norris Cole, Udonis Haslem and Josh McRoberts have also had the flu. Andersen and McRoberts both injured themselves while playing sick.
Andersen sustained a high-ankle sprain on Nov.23 against the Charlotte Hornets, and Friday night in Salt Lake City he missed his ninth consecutive game because of the injury.
Andersen has now missed 14 games with injury this season, and he has played in nine. For the second season in a row, Andersen was injured for his visit to Denver. He played seven seasons in Denver before joining the Heat during the 2012-13 championship season.
“I would like to be out there for all the games I’ve missed,” Andersen said. “Not necessarily Denver just because I played there most of my career, the majority of my career.”
Hamilton started in place of McRoberts, who missed his second game in a row with a right knee contusion. Before the game, McRoberts had a large wrap around his knee. Although he didn’t enter the game, McRoberts was one of six people listed among rosters for the Heat and Jazz who played college ball for Duke University.
For the Heat, Deng and Andre Dawkins also played at Duke. Dawkins is currently in Sioux Falls with the Heat’s D-League team. For the Jazz, coach Quin Snyder, assistant Antonio Lang and rookie Rodney Hood all played at Duke. In addition to those players and coaches with Duke connections, Heat CEO Nick Arison also attended the school and was a manager for the men’s basketball team.
“I had a short time at Duke, but just being there one year I really have a close relationship with everyone that went to Duke,” Deng said. “I don’t know who has the most guys in the NBA. I know for sure it’s not Marquette because they only had four guys in their practice facility.
“But guys from Duke, you would not necessarily say they stand out on their teams, but they try to do the right things, and that just shows the teaching and the fundamentals that you learn there.”
Opening Day rosters around the league featured 18 players from Duke, which was tied with Kentucky for the universities with the most NBA players. Jazz center Enes Kanter played for Kentucky.
Kansas had 17 players on opening day, including Heat guard Mario Chalmers. North Carolina started the NBA season with 16 players on league rosters.
Deng’s comment about Marquette was a knock at Wade, who starred for the Milwaukee private school. Two players from Marquette were on the rosters in Friday’s game in Utah, Wade and Steve Novak.