Based on the results of the past three games, plus the sprained right ankle sustained by Dwyane Wade, the impression would be that cracks are showing in the Miami Heat’s foundation.
The reality, power forward LeBron James said, is that even amid team’s 8-1 start, there never was a foundation.
“We haven’t been healthy yet, since the start of the season,” James said, with Friday’s 117-104 loss to the Denver Nuggets leaving the Heat with a three-game losing streak to conclude their five-game coast-to-coast trip and, now, an 8-4 record.
With swingman Mike Miller on the cusp of returning from the sports hernia that has had him sidelined since the start of the lockout-delayed training camp, the Heat appeared on the verge of becoming something closer to whole.
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Instead, Wade said the sprain he sustained in Friday’s fourth quarter was like no other during his nine seasons, “It never hurt that bad before.”
Initially believing he had sustained a break, Wade’s worst fears were eased when X-rays came back negative. But while his goal is to be back for Tuesday’s resumption of the schedule against the visiting San Antonio Spurs, a game to be played on his 30th birthday, the reality is what Wade might need most is an extended break.
Not only was Wade playing in just his third game back since missing three with a bruised left foot, but James revealed following Friday’s game that Wade also sustained a calf strain in Wednesday’s overtime loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, an injury previously not disclosed by the team.
“D has a lot of injuries going on, ankle and foot, strained his calf in the Clipper game, so, you know, he has a few injuries there he’s just trying to fight through,” James said. “So hopefully he can take these next couple of days, get off his feet, get the trainers involved, feel a lot better on Tuesday.”
The way Wade discussed his injury before Friday’s return flight to South Florida, with the Heat given Saturday off, he did not exactly offer next-game optimism.
“I’ve sprained my ankles many times, but I’ve never really sprained it like that before,” he said. “The biggest thing is you sprain it and you feel it roll over and try to get off of it as quick as possible. Once I got the X-rays saying it wasn’t broken, now it’s about doing my treatment and hopefully I can get back on the court as soon as possible.”
It is just the latest setback for Wade, who since a solid start to the season has played at a level below his typical standards, with the series of nagging injuries that have not appeared serious until this latest misstep.
“It’s probably frustrating for him that he’s not been able to have his explosiveness,” James said, noting the absence of Wade’s trademark change-of-direction attacking move. “We haven’t seen his Euro-step at all this year, because that foot is where you usually step off of and he’s kind of timid to even use that.
“So a lot of his moves he hasn’t been able to use thus far in this year because he’s afraid that he may reinjure his foot.”
To a degree, there is almost an uh-oh feeling with Wade, who has had seasons when he has been healthy and brilliantly productive, and other seasons where injuries have severely limited his effectiveness and availability.
“I’ve been here before,” he said. “I’m a professional. I understand. I went through seasons where I’ve played 79 games. I’ve gone through seasons where it’s been up and down.
“So the only thing you can do is try to get back on the court whenever you can. It’s always frustrating whenever you can’t play at your full ability and capability. But, like I said, it’s my ninth year in the league. I’ve been through this rodeo before.”
So instead of Miller augmenting what is in place, the more likely short-term option is to utilize him as a replacement for Wade.
“It’s tough,” Wade said. “The ideal situation is you want everybody to be healthy, you want everybody to be on the court. But we don’t live in an ideal world.”
Instead it is one where there is a three-game losing streak and the next three against imposing opposition in the Spurs, Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers to open a five-game homestand.
“We really need to get healthy,” James said. “That’s our main thing right now. We need to get healthy, everyone needs to get healthy. And hopefully these next couple of days or these next couple of weeks, guys can start feeling better.”
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