Heat guard Dwyane Wade nearly made it halfway through the season without missing a game because of injury. That streak ended night Friday in Denver, with Wade sidelined by injuries to both shoulders.
Wade missed one game earlier this season because his son Zion was hospitalized. But otherwise, he had perfect attendance, after missing 17, 13, 28 and 20 games the previous four seasons.
“Dwyane’s shoulders were really limiting him,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He fought through it. He will get some extra treatment. We will continue to re-evaluate him every day.”
Spoelstra said one shoulder has a “slight sprain” and the other “is a little bit of an impingement issue that he’s had. It has been limiting him for much of this road trip. The worst he felt was in the Clipper game. He mentioned [Thursday] that he wasn’t making progress and might have been taking a step back.”
Spoelstra said Wade’s shoulders “didn’t really respond” to treatment Friday and he will be re-evaluated Saturday, before Miami completes this six-game road trip Sunday in Oklahoma City.
Is this a short-term thing?
“I trust Dwyane’s healing ability and our training staff,” Spoelstra said.
Gerald Green started in Wade’s place against the Nuggets.
The Heat had just 10 players available Friday, with Josh McRoberts, Goran Dragic and Chris Andersen also sidelined, and Jarnell Stokes assigned to the Heat’s D-League team in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
The Heat sent Andersen back to Miami for an MRI on his injured left knee. Andersen has played just 36 minutes all season. Meanwhile, Spoelstra said it’s too early to tell whether Dragic will be able to return in a week from a calf injury.
One of the luxuries for the Big Three era Heat teams was a supporting cast comprised largely of seasoned, savvy veterans who knew what to do and when to do it.
This Heat incarnation clearly has fewer of those types of players, a reality reinforced in recent days. That has required an “adjustment” for the Heat’s leaders, Wade said Friday.
“For me and Chris [Bosh] and [Udonis Haslem], this is going to be one of our greatest challenges from that standpoint,” Wade said.
“We’ve had some teams here, especially coming off of four years of a veteran team that everyone policed themselves. It wasn’t always great [then], either. We had moments similar to this. But it’s different from a standpoint of having guys that have been there before and guys that haven’t.”
The Heat still wants accomplished, high-IQ veteran role players, such as those that were key cogs during the LeBron James years, a group that included Shane Battier, Ray Allen, James Jones, Mike Miller and others.
But the best of those types of players often want to join teams that are considered genuine title contenders.
So the key supporting pieces around Wade, Bosh, Dragic and Luol Deng are players who are young (Hassan Whiteside, Justise Winslow, Tyler Johnson) or NBA nomads (Green, Beno Udrih).
Amar’e Stoudemire, Andersen and Haslem bring veteran savvy, but play limited minutes.
The other challenge with this cast of players, Wade said, is “we’ve got a lot of internal quiet guys and sometimes when things go wrong, when there’s frustration, … you get quiet and get into your own inner dilemma. When you play team sports, you have to get out of it.”
On past Heat teams, most of the public on-court scoldings were directed at Mario Chalmers. But the Heat had two such incidents during Wednesday’s loss at the Clippers, with Whiteside and Green drawing Wade’s ire for not being in the right place. Wade grabbed the back of Whiteside’s jersey after Whiteside’s mistake.
Wade downplayed those incidents on Friday.
“When you play team sports, you can’t take nothing personal,” he said. “… In that moment, we can yell at each other. That’s my job as a leader on this team to get on guys.
“If someone sees me doing something they don’t like, I expect them to get on me. I expect coach to tell me the other night about my [seven] turnovers. If you can’t take it, you shouldn’t be playing a team sport.”
Bosh also said the public admonishments were “OK” with him and “I hope everybody sees it because they know we care.”
The team reviewed tape of Wednesday’s game during a meeting Thursday, but Wade said “it’s not like, you meet and everything is fine the next game.”
So have the Heat’s recent struggles left Wade discouraged about this team’s chances of legitimately challenging Cleveland in the East?
“No,” he said. “I have been very consistent with my message with this team all season long. We’re not there yet. We’ve got a lot of work to get there. Cleveland is so far ahead of us as a team that went to the Finals last year.”
Bosh said “we’ve had enough heart-to-heart [meetings]. We’re men. Only so many heart to hearts you can have. You’ve got to save that for when things get really tough.”