According to the website ManGamesLost.com, which measures not just how much time players miss but also the impact of the players lost, the Miami Heat was the fourth-most injury-ravaged team in the NBA last season.
Only the Timberwolves, Lakers and Knicks had a harder time getting their best players on the court together.
That’s why — in part — the Heat went out this summer and beefed up its bench. Miami added veterans Gerald Green and Amar’e Stoudemire through free agency to add scoring punch, drafted rookies Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson (two players they gave first-round grades) and continued to develop D-League pickup Tyler Johnson and last year’s second-round pick James Ennis in summer league.
What the Heat has now is a bench that goes pretty deep.
“We’re going to need everybody for sure,” said Dwyane Wade, who has missed a total of 94 games the past four seasons because injury or rest through the Heat’s maintenance program.
“We have a veteran team here. It’s going to be hard to keep everybody there for 82 games, especially with the pace that’s going on in the NBA right now.”
Wade, 33, is one of six players on the roster who has played at least 11 seasons in the NBA. Five players are 30 or older (Chris Andersen, Chris Bosh, Luol Deng, Stoudemire and Wade) and three more (Goran Dragic, Green and Mario Chalmers) will turn 30 by the end of the playoffs.
Although Stoudemire, a six-time All-Star, believes the Heat’s second unit of Chalmers, Green, the 19-year-old Winslow, Josh McRoberts and himself could be a starting unit elsewhere in the NBA, he also acknowledges only a couple might be able to play 35 minutes a night.
“It’s my 14th year,” Stoudemire said. “Obviously at this point you’re never 100 percent. But I feel good enough to play, and that I can still be dominant in the time that I’m out there. It’s a matter of trying to maintain that.“
Stoudemire was effective off the bench last season in the 21.1 minutes he averaged for the Knicks and Mavericks. He averaged 11.5 points, 5.6 rebounds and shot 55.7 percent from the field.
But as the Heat plans to do with Stoudemire and others, the 6-10, 245-pound forward will be on a maintenance plan like he was with his previous two teams. That means when trainers think he needs time off, Stoudemire will rest.
The same scenario will likely play out for McRoberts, who is coming back from surgery to repair a torn meniscus that cost him 65 games last season.
“We want guys healthy for that playoff push, for that postseason,” said Stoudemire, who missed 23 games last season because of injury or rest following debridement in both knees. “That’s when we want guys to be at their best and as strong as possible. We see the long haul. We see the longevity, and we want to make sure we stay healthy for that.”
With two key frontcourt players in maintenance programs, that means the Heat will likely need to call upon 37-year-old Chris Andersen and 35-year-old Udonis Haslem to play in spots off the bench.
At guard, with Chalmers coming off arthroscopic knee surgery and needing rest at times this preseason, it likely means Johnson, who has shown a knack for scoring at the rim, will also be needed.
Winslow, who has shown tremendous defensive prowess for a rookie and the ability to score when driving to the basket, will prove valuable in spelling Deng, the Heat’s best wing defender.
Green’s instant offense — and three-point shooting (he shot 41.2 percent through the Heat’s first seven preseason games) is a welcome addition. Last year the Heat’s bench ranked 28th in scoring (26.6 per game), a four-point drop from the year before when it had Ray Allen, Shane Battier and Rashard Lewis to knock down shots.
“I think we’ll have opportunities to wear teams down,” Bosh said of the Heat’s depth. “But we have to make sure that we’re constantly running, getting to our pace, moving the ball, playing together and just putting them in bad situations every single time down the floor.
“With having a good second group, it’s a luxury. We have to continue to take advantage of it. Like I said, they’re saving us right now [in the preseason]. Thank God for them. We’ll have to continue to save each other throughout the season.”