Dwyane Wade knew as soon as it happened. His latest injury might take longer than usual to heal.
Calling a sudden news conference Thursday at AmericanAirlines Arena, Wade told reporters, “I won’t be seeing y’all for a little while, so take a good look at this face.”
The Heat shooting guard strained his right hamstring in Tuesday night’s loss to Milwaukee, and he said the best-case scenario for his return would be two to three weeks. That means Wade would miss the All-Star Game (he was selected as a reserve Thursday) and also miss Miami’s road game against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Feb. 11.
“You can’t put a time on it,” Wade said. “You can’t look at the hamstring and say you’re going to be out this amount of games. Like many muscle strains, you’ve got to go day by day.”
This is Wade’s third leg injury of the season. He strained his left hamstring Nov. 12 against Indiana and missed seven games. He then tweaked the back of his left leg again Jan. 13 against the Lakers and missed two games. He has missed 10 of the Heat’s 45 games this season. Wade missed 28 games last season due to various injuries.
“Where this thing has me is frustrated and where I stand I have no idea,” Wade said. “It’s just the second day of a pulled hamstring.”
Wade’s injury initially occurred in the third quarter while he was tracking back on defense during a fastbreak dunk by Brandon Knight. He remained in the game and then injured it further during a routine defensive play.
“I was chasing [Khris] Middleton, and then it just went,” Wade said.
In addition to Wade’s injury, forward Luol Deng is also recovering from a strained calf. Deng did not play Tuesday and will not be available for Friday’s home game against the Dallas Mavericks. Chris Andersen, who sat out against the Bucks with back and elbow injuries, practiced Thursday and is expected to play Friday.
Wade said the accumulation of minutes and four consecutive trips to the NBA Finals over the last five seasons could be a reason for his rash of leg injuries.
“The mileage is real,” Wade said.
The Heat (20-25) is in seventh place in the Eastern Conference standings and trails the Bucks by three games in the loss column. Meanwhile, several teams in the bottom third of the Eastern Conference are enduring similar injury-riddled circumstances. In Charlotte, the eighth-place Hornets (two games behind the Heat in the loss column) are without guard Kemba Walker for six weeks due an injury. In Detroit, guard Brandon Jennings recently went out with a ruptured left Achilles tendon just as the Pistons were turning the corner.
Sandwiched between Charlotte and Detroit in the standings, the ninth-place Brooklyn Nets seem more interested in selling off assets than competing for a spot in the postseason.
In other words, even if the Heat wanted to rest Wade until March and tank the rest of the season to slip into the top 10 in the NBA draft, it would have a difficult time doing it. On Thursday there were 13 teams in the NBA with worse records than the Heat. Seemingly locked into one or two positions in the standings, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra encouraged his teams to be resilient.
“You have to embrace this; we have to have fun with this right now,” Spoelstra said. “We have enough. Does that mean it’s not frustrating? Does that mean it’s going to be easy? No. But we have enough to circle the wagons, and give ourselves a chance to win every single night.”
Spoelstra indicated that reserve James Ennis could receive more playing time with Wade out, and that Mario Chalmers would have to once again fill in at shooting guard. Even rookie guard Tyler Johnson, playing on a 10-day contract as an insurance policy, could see time over the next few games.
“We’re not feeling sorry for ourselves,” Spoelstra said. “We know that no one else is going to feel sorry for us. This is the way the season has been going. It hasn’t affected our guys’ mood or their determination to still compete.”