OKLAHOMA CITY – Dwyane Wade pronounced himself ready to return to the Heat’s lineup Friday night, fully recovered from a hamsting injury that sidelined him five games. He was on Miami’s active roster for the game against the Thunder.
"I feel good," he said an hour before the game. "I’ve told coaches I felt good [Thursday]. I had three good days in a row I felt good. [Friday] was my first day going through shootaround with the second unit."
Wade sustained the injury March 10 against Washington, and the Heat has been careful not to rush him back too quickly.
"It’s been working with the trainers, doing everything they’ve asked me to do," he said.
Erik Spoelstra said Wade wouldn’t play as much as his regular 22.8 minutes per game.
Wade is averaging 13.7 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 12 games for the Heat since Miami acquired him from Cleveland.
Goran Dragic, James Johnson and others have been more aggressive offensively late in close games during Wade’s absence. Dragic said he will pick his spots late in games when Wade returns.
"It will be the same me," Dragic said of his late-game approach with Wade back. "Whoever has the better matchup or better shot, that guy is going to take it. We need to be smart about it. It depends which player you have on you. When we played against Denver, they put [Wilson] Chandler on me. He’s fast, he’s big. That’s why we went to other guys."
Wade, Dragic said, "makes my job so much easier. Before he got hurt, we proved that we can play with everybody together. I think it’s not going to be a problem."
Spoelstra indicated he wants other players to retain their late-game offensive aggressiveness when Wade returns. "And we were already doing that with Dwyane," he said. "There was only a couple, two or three games, where Dwyane really had to go in the bag and turn back the clock.
"But Dwyane wants guys to grow and gain more confidence, and that’s really a big part of his greatness. He’s going to make this whole group better and that’s not just by him taking the last shot. There might be other guys making plays, and him instilling a bunch of confidence in him."
• Center Hassan Whiteside missed his seventh consecutive game with a strained left hip flexor. He spent considerable time on an exercise bike Friday.
The Heat will get the services of Derrick Jones Jr. and Derrick Walton Jr. for the duration of the regular season as soon as the Sioux Falls Skyforce season ends, potentially as soon as this weekend.
The Skyforce is an underdog to secure a G-League playoff spot.
Both players are signed to two-way contracts and neither is eligible for postseason unless the Heat clears a spot on the 15-man roster for either of them, which appears unlikely.
Two-way players are permitted to spend no more than 45 days in the NBA until their G-League season ends. Walton has used all his days.
"It’s something that we’ve been able to negotiate pretty smoothly," Spoelstra said. "The system is a little bit clumsy, but I’m sure we’ll iron that all out in years to come. I’m a big fan of the two-way contract. I think it’s good for teams, it’s good for the player."
Jones, who joined the Heat Friday night, has two days of NBA eligibility remaining before the Skyforce season ends.
Jones has appeared in 11 games for the Heat and made eight starts and is averaging 3.8 points while shooting 37.2 percent from the field and 14.3 percent on three-pointers (2 for 14).
Asked if he views Jones as a longterm possibility for the Heat, Spoelstra said: "Absolutely. He’s improved this year with us… I think he has to break into this program as a defensive minded player. That’s really where his potential is. But we will hammer and drill all the other stuff offensively, just also to throw a carrot to guys.
"It’s been very intentional that we try to get him on the best wing opponent every night. He has to be able to impact on that side of the floor. And that got better. It still has a long ways to go, but he’s starting to understand where he can breakthrough."
Walton has appeared in 15 games for the Heat and is averaging 1.9 points while shooting 7 for 17 on three-pointers (41.2) but just 1 for 7 on two-pointers.