Over the weekend, Wade, the Miami Heat’s superstar guard, celebrated his 30th birthday with a party at the Setai Hotel on South Beach.
Several teammates were there – LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem among them – and hip-hop artists TI, Common and Rick Ross performed. Wade, whose actual birthday is today, also received a 2012 McLaren MP4-12C automobile, which is valued at about $230,000. It was airlifted onto the hotel’s swimming poll where it sat atop a platform in all of its spectacular glory.
OK, that was fun time.
Now, it’s rest time. And that starts with tonight’s game against San Antonio, continues through Thursday’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers, and likely goes through Saturday’s game against Philadelphia.
The Heat (8-4), which is riding a three-game losing streak, is playing a five-game homestand. It’d be a shame for the local crowd to miss Wade for three of those games. In the bigger picture, however, the Heat is playing nine games in 13 days. There’s no “good” time to rest Wade.
Just do it. Now.
“Even if it causes him to miss a few games,” James said, “we’d rather him be 100 percent healthy than playing where he’s not comfortable.”
Wade has been incredibly durable the previous three seasons, playing 76, 77 and 79 games each year. In the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons, injuries limited him to 51 games each year.
But now we come to this season. Wade has missed three of Miami’s 12 games. Yeah, it’s early, but he’s missed one-fourth of the Heat’s games already. He’s been afflicted with three ailments – a bruised left foot, a strained right calf and, now, a severely sprained right ankle.
Mind you, Wade declared himself in perhaps the best physical shape of his life entering this abbreviated training camp.
Now is the time to make sure Wade’s collection of injuries – that’s meant to neither belittle nor overplay this group of maladies – doesn’t grow into something bigger. That’s a popular opinion.
“He probably needed to sit down and rest in the first place,” Bosh said of his Big Three teammate. “Sometimes an injury will do that to you. It’s a blessing in disguise. We need to be healthy when it’s time to make a run in the playoffs.
“That’s the most important thing. He needs to just chill out right now, get better and we’ll hold it down until he gets back.”
Miami is 3-0 without Wade, having defeated Indiana, Atlanta and New Jersey. In fact, the Heat beat Atlanta in triple-overtime without Wade or James. So there’s no reason to believe the Heat can’t win, temporarily, without Wade.
The trick might be smoothing out a clumsy halfcourt offense. Miami has committed 57 turnovers during its three-game losing streak – losses to Golden State (22 turnovers in an overtime game), the Los Angeles Clippers (18 turnovers) and Denver (17).
“We’re still learning,” forward Shane Battier said. “That’s evidenced by our high turnover numbers. I think when we’re fully comfortable that number will come down. Like every team, we’re a work in progress.”
For the short term, while Wade is sidelined, James said offensive improvement might mean reverting to his days in Cleveland when he was the No. 1 offensive option.
“I have to, not say force,” James said, “but put a little bit more pressure on myself to go out there and be more in tune with the offensive gameplan, and defensive gameplan…so just pick it up a little bit more.”
Expect forward James Jones to start in Wade’s place, just as he’s done in Wade’s previous absences, but also check to see if swingman Mike Miller (hernia) is activated and able to make a contribution. Haslem, Miller and Battier, a trio of incredibly valuable veteran role players, could combine to absorb Wade’s absence, in much different ways, of course.
So far, coach Erik Spoelstra has only said there’s no timetable on Wade’s return. But considering Wade hasn’t practiced the previous two days, it’s a sure bet he won’t play tonight.
The Heat hasn’t spoken publicly on the severity of Wade’s injury. So it’s tough to say with certainty he should sit out the entire week. And this three-game losing streak could quickly escalate into a five- or six-game losing streak without Wade. There’s no way that should happen, but it’s possible.
Still, it’d be better for the Heat to err on the side of caution when it comes to resting Wade. Wait until he’s 100 percent. It sounds as though that’s the players’ mindset.
“We have to prepare like he’s not going to play,” Bosh said, “and when one day he comes up and says, ‘I feel better,’ then it’ll be a plus. But right now we go in with what we have.”
Chris Perkins is a regular contributor to SheridanHoops.com, covering the NBA and the Miami Heat. His columns appear every Tuesday. Follow him on Twitter.