Games on back-to-back nights usually meant rest in some form or another for Dwyane Wade’s surgically repaired knees last season.
Heat fans will find out soon enough if that is still the case.
Fresh off a 12-point fourth-quarter performance in a season-opening win over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday, Wade and the Heat are set to open the first of 16 back-to-backs this season Saturday in Philadelphia, before returning home to play the Raptors on Sunday.
Last year, Wade, 32, played in back-to-back games only three of the 15 times the Heat was scheduled on consecutive nights. With LeBron James around to carry the load, the Heat could afford to give Wade’s knees a break.
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But not now.
The Heat’s next six games will be played as part of back-to-backs.
With the team still working on getting offseason acquisitions Luol Deng, Danny Granger, Josh McRoberts and Shawne Williams more comfortable in the system, it would be nice to have Wade, a 10-time All-Star, around to help Chris Bosh carry the offensive load in the early going.
“We’re going to take it day by day,” coach Erik Spoelstra said when asked Friday if he has thought about giving Wade a rest with his team set to play four games over the next five nights. “Last year was a little bit different of a plan … the plan [now] is to go day by day and have him be available.”
Before returning and scoring a dozen of his 21 points in the fourth quarter Wednesday, Wade limped off the court late in the third quarter and headed to the locker room, where he said trainers “rubbed out” the cramps in his calf.
Spoelstra said Wade was full-go in practice Friday, and Wade said the calf is “nothing that’s going to affect me at all.”
“Just like everybody else, I’m going into Game 2 looking to play,” Wade said.
But what about playing in back-to-back games? “I feel a lot better,” Wade said. “I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing, and hopefully I’ll feel as good as I can and play as many nights as I can and try to be effective when I’m on the floor.”
Bosh expects to see Wade play in a lot more regular-season games — he played in 54 last season — and on back-to-back nights.
▪ The Heat had until 5p.m. Friday to offer point guard Norris Cole a rookie-scale extension and keep him from becoming a restricted free agent.
But the team didn’t, so it will have to present a qualifying offer of $3 million by July 1 to keep him in a Heat uniform beyond this season.
That would enable Miami to match any offers entertained by Cole.
▪ McRoberts could see his first action in a Heat uniform soon. Spoelstra said the 6-10 forward, who sat out the preseason while recovering from April surgery to remove bone spurs from the big toe on his left foot, participated in a scrimmage Thursday and practiced fully with the team on Friday.
“I imagine his body will be pretty sore [Saturday],” Spoelstra said. “We don’t know until we see how he feels.”
▪ Granger said he won’t play in Philadelphia on Saturday because of soreness in his left hamstring, but he expects to be back with the team “real soon.” Granger said he tweaked his hamstring going up for a dunk three days ago in practice.
▪ Bosh, Wade and Cole each tuned in to watch the Cavaliers’ loss to the Knicks on Thursday night.
“Obviously, there were some chemistry issues on Cleveland’s part,” Cole said. “They had some execution things. But it’s like that. It’s early in the season.”
Said Wade: “I thought the Knicks showed a gutsy performance coming off a back-to-back and losing to Chicago at home the way they did. Obviously, neither one of those teams — especially the Cavs team — are going to be the one everybody sees as the season progresses. You can’t expect greatness right away from [any] team in the NBA.”
The Heat started 9-8 when Bosh, Wade and James first formed the Heat’s Big 3 in 2010. Bosh said critics shouldn’t compare the Cavs’ Big 3 to Miami’s because “it’s a different system, different team, different place, different era, different time.”
Wade said the pressure on Miami was bigger.
“It’s not even close,” he said. “The first team always gets the hit.”