It wasn’t intended as a shot at Dwyane Wade, but LeBron James also wasn’t interested in addressing his teammate’s lingering hamstring injury and what it might mean for the Heat during the final weeks of the regular season.
Wade missed his fourth consecutive game Wednesday with a strained hamstring and he also is expected to sit out Friday’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Wade has missed 23 games this season with various ailments, including regular rest for his sore knees.
“I’m only concerned with guys who are in the lineup,” James said when asked about Wade’s injury. “That’s all my focus can be. I can’t worry about who’s not in the lineup. I have to give my energy to guys that are on the floor.
“Obviously, we want everyone to be healthy. But if not, I can’t worry about that.”
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Heat coach Erik Spoelstra once again started Toney Douglas in place of Wade against the Milwaukee Bucks and James praised Douglas before the game. The Heat released Roger Mason Jr. earlier this season and signed Douglas, considered a better defender, in the event Wade sustained another late-season injury similar to last season.
“We love T.D. and to be able to get him how we got him was a luxury to our team,” James said.
“He’s still learning the system, but his energy and his motor make up for a lot of mistakes that you may not even recognize because he plays so hard defensively and offensively he gets into the paint a lot and makes things happen for teammates and himself. So, that’s huge for us.”
Douglas isn’t expected to be in the Heat’s regular playoff rotation, but he has been a nice stopgap. With Douglas in the starting lineup, the Heat has won four games in a row and overtaken the Indiana Pacers for first place in the Eastern Conference.
Long term, inserting Douglas into the starting lineup instead of shifting around the Heat’s second unit could help with continuity and rhythm when Wade returns.
“Having another guard out there that can handle the ball has helped us,” James said. “Having another defender has helped us a lot. And then just everybody not worrying about what they can’t control. And that has a lot to do with it as well. We’re just going out and playing.”
Piggybacking questions about Wade’s injury, reporters also peppered James about his own health and whether or not he needed some rest. James has been playing through a sore back, but nothing serious enough to miss time.
“It has never been part of my DNA to [miss games] if I feel like I can give something, I got to be out there for my teammates,” James said. “That’s my obligation to be out there for them, but I’m dealing with a few things, but for me to sit out, I have to be dealing with a lot more.”
Of course, it’s not like James has been overworked recently. Before Wednesday, he logged 29, 30 and 38 minutes in his last three games.
“I’m out there for my teammates, and we need a win,” James said.
Ray Allen returned to the AmericanAirlines Arena after a week away from the team, but was held out of the game while his body recovers from a nasty bout with the flu bug. Allen went through his normal routine before the game, but was in a suit on the bench during the game.
“He’s superhuman,” Spoelstra said. “I don’t get it. We were all giving him a hard time. He lost one pound. He was out a week!
“The last 24 hours were his biggest hours of recovery. He went through the entire shootaround and it wasn’t as if he missed a beat.”