Frustration festered like an infected wound on Thursday night in the Heat’s postgame locker room.
On one end of the cramped space, Dwyane Wade spoke with muted dejection about his latest injury.
On the other end, Wade’s sometimes backup, Mario Chalmers, questioned his place on the team. As one of the Heat’s only uninjured players, Chalmers knows he has a lot to offer, but at this point he’s not quite sure how to do it. Seven games remain of this bewitched and broken season.
“I don’t even really know what my role is on this team anymore,” Chalmers told the Miami Herald. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing.”
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This is what happens at the end of a season when the only constant over the past four months has been endless suffering, wave after wave of injuries slowly pulverizing rock-solid resolve into despair and confusion.
At different times this season, Chalmers has started at point guard and also at shooting guard. He also has backed up those two positions, and sometimes during the same game.
It’s all battlefield promotions and duct-taped ideas at this point, especially with Wade once again going down. Nothing makes sense anymore.
“A lot of people are out of rhythm, and you really don’t know what’s going to happen — when you’re going to get the ball, when you’re going to shoot it, you just never know. You just got to be ready for everything, I guess,” Chalmers said.
Playing either position is nothing new for Chalmers, of course, so it’s revealing when the Heat’s lack of stability has affected the team’s veteran combo guard.
During Thursday’s loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Chalmers subbed in at point guard during the first quarter and then shifted over to shooting guard minutes later.
After Wade’s injury in the second quarter, Chalmers backed up both Goran Dragic and rookie Tyler Johnson, who started the second half at shooting guard.
Chalmers wasn’t complaining about his role on Thursday in that visiting locker room in Cleveland. He just couldn’t really explain it.
“I don’t know,” Chalmers said. “It’s something I’ve never experienced before. This is something new to a lot of people on this team, but we’ve got to make it work.”
And make it work soon, as in Saturday night against the Detroit Pistons at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
The Heat (34-41) leads the Boston Celtics (34-42) by a half-game for eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings after the Celtics lost at home to the Bucks 110-101 on Friday night. The Pacers (33-43) and Hornets (32-43) are right behind. The Pacers routed the Hornets 93-74 on Friday. The Heat trails the Nets (35-40) by one game for seventh place.
With two more losses to finish this road trip, the Heat potentially could be in 11th place in the East when the team returns to Miami on Monday.
Whatever combination of putty and spit coach Erik Spoelstra uses this time to hold together the Heat’s season, it needs to somehow magically produce some wins. Five of the Heat’s final seven games are against sub-.500 teams (Pistons, Pacers, Hornets, Magic and 76ers), so the schedule suggests a miracle is possible. The injury report does not. Healthy players are in the minority: Chalmers, Johnson, James Ennis, Henry Walker and Zoran Dragic. That’s pretty much it.
Wade’s injury scare against the Cavaliers actually turned out to be good news, relatively speaking.
There were no damaged ligaments or pulled muscles after Wade slipped and crashed awkwardly to the court in the second quarter, just more pain to that throbbing left knee.
In addition to Wade’s injury — a bone bruise inside his knee — starters Luol Deng (strained left knee) and Hassan Whiteside (lacerated right hand) are playing injured. On Friday, Goran Dragic added his name to the list of walking wounded, noting that he’s not playing at full speed.
“The body doesn’t feel right, but everyone is feeling like that, so it’s not only me,” Dragic said.
Whiteside has been playing with 10 stitches between the middle and ring fingers of his right hand, and the laceration bled during the loss to Cleveland. He grimaced after a dunk in the second half.
“I had to go up strong, because [the officials] were just letting them butcher me,” Whiteside said. “It was hurting a lot more than the first game, but playing with one hand is becoming my new thing now, so there isn’t nothing I can do about it — just deal with it.”
Whiteside and his one good hand will line up against Pistons center Andre Drummond on Saturday and then Pacers center Roy Hibbert on Sunday.
Whiteside’s backup, Chris Andersen, is also playing despite an injury (left calf), and Udonis Haslem has missed two consecutive games with an illness.
The biggest concern, though, is Wade’s playing status and how the Heat will adapt if he can’t play this weekend.
Seeing Wade hobble off the court in Cleveland against LeBron James felt like the season’s last, depressing blow.
“I hope to get it a little better,” Wade said of the knee, “and we’ll see when Saturday comes if I’m good enough to go. If not, I’ll see on Sunday.”
SATURDAY: HEAT AT PISTONS
When, where: 7:30 p.m., Palace of Auburn Hills, Auburn Hills, Mich.
TV, radio: Sun Sports; FM 104.3, 790 AM, WAQI 710 AM (Spanish).
Series: Heat leads 51-45.
Injuries: Dwyane Wade (left knee contusion) and Udonis Haslem (illness) are questionable; Hassan Whiteside (right hand laceration) is probable; Chris Bosh (blood clot), Josh McRoberts (right knee meniscus) and Shabazz Napier (sports hernia) are out for the season. For the Pistons, Spender Dinwiddie (left ankle sprain) is questionable; Greg Monroe (right knee strain) and Brandon Jennings (ruptured left Achilles tendon) are out.