If the Miami Heat are to make their third straight NBA Finals appearance for a chance to compete for their second straight title, they will need a healthy Dwyane Wade.
The veteran guard has been a shell of himself in these playoffs, only averaging 11.2 points per game this series against the Chicago Bulls. He scored just six points on 3-of-10 shooting in Game 4.
The Heat appear to have enough to get past the depleted Bulls, but there are questions going forward of what he’ll be able to give them in the following rounds.
He’s been dealing with a nagging bone bruise in his right knee for the past two months and re-aggravated it again in Game 4 in the first half.
“I’m just frustrated at times,” Wade said. “You just try to do what you can. They ask me how I feel. I say, `Sometimes it feels good, sometimes it doesn’t.’ You can’t predict it.'"
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has deflected injury talk regarding Wade and has praised his maturity and poise in making the right basketball plays throughout the series, but anyone can see the explosion isn’t there on offense and he’s limited in his movements on defense.
Wade said he see’s no benefit in sitting out Wednesday's potential closeout game against the Bulls, and will be evaluated once the team arrives in Miami on a day-to-day basis going forward.
Whether he can regain the form he showed throughout the regular season – averaging 21 points per game on 52 percent shooting – will play a huge role in the Heat’s title chances. If he continues to battle like he is, his teammates are prepared to carry the load and take whatever Wade can give them.
“We know D. Wade is battling a knee injury right now,” LeBron James said. “He’s nowhere near 100 percent, so everyone has to step up their play.”
James remembered the difficulty he had during the 2009-10 season--his last with the Cleveland Cavaliers--in playing with a right elbow injury that lingered through the postseason.
“You just try to go out there and give it all you got. It sucks because you know you can do things that the injury isn’t allowing you to do it...I know what he’s going through.”
If there is any benefit to Wade having to deal with the struggling with an injury, it’s the Heat’s depth. He hasn’t made any excuses or allowed the injury to be an issue and wants the focus to remain on the team.
“I know what to do,” Wade said. “I’ve been playing with it for almost two months now. I’ll make the adjustment if need be.”