Posted Apr 18 2011 10:28AM
MIAMI -- You cannot question the man's heart, only his knees, elbows, ankles, tendons and now, his throbbing head.
It's not Dwyane Wade who can't be trusted, just his body, which is capable of breaking down any defense or simply breaking down, period. How can the Heat lean on him when that might cause him to buckle and cave and miss the next game?
An assortment of injuries and aches have managed to irritate and interrupt his eight-year career, not for very long, but enough to make him a constant health concern. Even this season, the most anticipated in team history, Wade wasn't able to make it through without a limp. The hint came early, three minutes into the exhibition season, when he left the opener holding his hamstring, causing all of Miami to hold its breath.
This time the ice bag is resting on his head. Wade has a history of migraines, and the old enemy has returned and flared at a most inopportune time, with the Heat one game into their first-round playoff series with the Sixers. Wade was a no-show at Sunday's practice, and while nobody is ruling him out for Game 2, nobody would be naïve enough to exhale when it comes to Wade's health, either.
"We'll have to see how he feels at the end of the day," said coach Erik Spoelstra. "We really want to be proactive right now and keep him rested. Then we'll go from there."
Spoelstra said Wade first felt symptoms before Game 1, and still managed to play 35 minutes and help pull Miami away from a tight contest deep in the fourth quarter. Wade's role, and his importance to the Heat, was magnified in those tense moments, when his number, and not LeBron James', was called. Because he came through with a nifty bank shot, the Heat know they can count on Wade. When he's on the floor, that is.
"He said just before the game that he felt he had a headache," said Spoelstra, "but you know how competitive he is. He played that first New York game with the same type of lingering effect, and made it through. It's way too early to tell (if Wade will miss Game 2)."
He missed five games with injuries this season, which actually is an improvement from recent years, but still represents a trend that began when he turned pro. Wade has never played all 82 regular-season games and only three of his eight years can be classified as relatively injury-free. Wade first developed migraines in college at Marquette, and they followed him to the NBA. He's only missed two games with migraines, although one was this season, in January against Toronto.
Will Wade's body hold up for the long haul?
The bigger issue is whether Wade's body can be trusted in the long haul. So much money and hope is invested in Wade, James and Chris Bosh, all signed for six years, all bringing the promise of a multiple-championship haul. Will Wade stand the test of time? And does this place a bit more urgency for Miami to grab a trophy or two while it can, before Wade reaches and grabs something else?
Furthermore, because the Heat are about as deep as bathwater, so many minutes are dumped and so much importance is placed on the Big Three to produce. More treadwear, then, is coming for Wade, especially in the playoffs, when turning to the bench is not an option. More minutes, more leaning, more stress and more risk is placed on a player who isn't getting any younger.
This is where the signing of Mike Miller last summer looks more dubious. Miller was supposed to give LeBron and Wade a breather, or at least assume some of the scoring load. But a preseason wrist injury set him back, and since returning, Miller has been mostly invisible. He played three minutes in Game 1 and missed all three of his shots. Plus, his wrist remains in a wrap. There's really no other option for Miami, at least none without some consequences, should Wade miss any stretch of time.
Of course, this places more of a burden on LeBron. Without Wade on the floor, LeBron is essentially back to playing with the Cavaliers again. And he'll see the ball with the game on the line. Speaking of which, LeBron reiterated he has no problem being Option No. 2.
"I'm comfortable with it," he said. "I had my chances. I'll have my chances again. But when you see that one hand isn't working, you go to the other hand."
Wade may need to wear goggles with a special tint; the migraines make him sensitive to bright lights. He found the goggles uncomfortable when doctors previously recommended he wear them. Most likely, he'll just play without them, if he plays.
"We've won without Dwyane," said Bosh. "Of course you're going to miss 25 points a game and eight assists and eight rebounds. But we've been in this situation before. We expect to win the game no matter what happens."
It's a lot easier to win with Wade. Without him? Basketball becomes a pain in the (pick a body part).
Shaun Powell is a veteran NBA writer and columnist. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.
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