Dwyane Wade ended up sitting out 28 games this season after missing a combined 36 in the first three seasons with LeBron James as a teammate. But Wade enters these playoffs in a much better place, from a health perspective, than last year, when a knee injury lingered throughout the postseason.
This time around, he said the knee is “doing very well.” And he also has recovered from the hamstring injury that sidelined him for nine games before he returned for the final three of the regular season.
“It’s a lot better than going into it last year,” Wade said late Wednesday night. “Hopefully, I’ll have a better first round health wise than I did first round versus the Bucks last year, when I had to miss [Game 4] in Milwaukee. I look forward to Game 1 and hopefully not having any setbacks.”
Erik Spoelstra said: “I’m encouraged just by the health that he’s had. He feels strong. He still has to work on the game conditioning but that will have to happen on the fly in the playoffs.”
Wade played 23, 18 and 23 minutes in the three games since returning from the hamstring. He said he’s not concerned that fatigue could be an issue in the postseason, though he hasn’t played 30 minutes since logging 31 March 26 in Indiana.
“We’re well-conditioned athletes,” he said. “You get tired, you can come out for two minutes and go back in.... These were a good three games for me. It’s better than going into the playoffs without playing. I’m glad I was able to get a few games in, different teams, different styles, see how they guarded me a little different.
“I tried to do pull ups, do it all just to see how it felt – quick moves, spin moves. I did what I wanted to do, pushed myself to do things I needed to do. I’m happy going into the postseason. After missing those nine games, it’s tough for me because I wanted to play well down the stretch. I wasn’t able to get that rhythm.”
Though he has played only one game with James in the past three weeks, Wade said: “I’m not worried about continuity with him at all. The biggest thing is we both know what we need to do. We played together for four years. That’s enough continuity right there.”
Wade said Thursday “will be the last day anybody can bother me. Sorry. You lock in for roughly two months and get into the mental place you need to be.”
### The Heat has beaten Charlotte all 15 games since James has been a member of the Heat and 16 in a row overall.
This season’s scores: 97-81 Nov. 16 in Charlotte, 99-98 Dec. 1 in Miami, 104-96 in overtime on Jan. 18 in Charlotte and 124-107 March 3 in Miami, the game in which James set a Heat franchise and personal scoring record with 61 points.
James averaged 37.8 points on 62.9 percent shooting in the four games. Wade played in just two of the games, averaging 10.5 points.
“They deserve the respect of how they have played for the last six weeks,” Spoelstra said. “They’ve been one of the better teams in the league, certainly in the Eastern Conference. They defend and give themselves a chance every night. Al Jefferson, since January, since the All-Star break, has been one of the top players in this league. The speed and quickness and the shooting they have, they’re worthy, worthy opponents.”
Jefferson averaged 25.3 points and 15.3 rebounds in four games against the Heat.
“The team competes very hard,” Wade said. “They have a great one-two punch with Kemba Walker and Big Al Jefferson. They have a great system and all of them are involved. We’ve got to come with our hard hats on.”
Wade said guards Walker and Gerald Henderson “present some challenges. Walker is a very quick guard. He’s always getting around pick and rolls, getting through small gaps. He is going to challenge our defense. Henderson is an athletic guard with the ability to post-up, mid-range game.”
### ABC wanted and will air Game 1 of the series Sunday but had no use for the fourth game, which will be played a week from Monday night instead of Sunday. Twice in recent years, ABC committed to airing Game 4 of a Heat first-round series and was stuck with an unappealing matchup because Miami was up 3-0.
ABC instead will get Chicago-Washington and Golden State-Clippers as its double-header on the second Sunday of postseason (April 27).
Here's the full schedule:
Game 1 - Sun April 20 Charlotte at Miami 3:30PM ABC
Game 2 - Wed April 23 Charlotte at Miami 7 p.m., SUN, TNT
Game 3 - Sat April 26 Miami at Charlotte 7 p.m., SUN, ESPN
Game 4 - Mon April 28 Miami at Charlotte 7 p.m., SUN, TNT
Game 5 (if needed) - Wed April 30 Charlotte at Miami Time TBD; SUN, TBD
Game 6 (if needed) - Fri May 2 Miami at Charlotte Time TBD; Sun; TBD
Game 7 (if needed) - Sun May 4 Charlotte at Miami Time TBD; TBD
### The Heat ended up winning 12 fewer games than last season’s 66-16 team. “When you get into the second season, you have no idea what’s going to happen,” Spoelstra said. “It’s an unknowable future.”
### What most needs to improve from the Heat’s regular season performance? “Our consistency with our defensive principles, being in the right place,” Shane Battier said. The playoffs “is ultimately what we’ll be judged on. And we need to be at our best. We have not been close.”
### Battier, who is retiring after the season, was pleased that Spoelstra played him 39 minutes on Wednesday against Philadelphia, allowing him to surpass 30,000 in his career. Battier, who finished at 33,003 minutes, said he told Spoelstra at Wednesday’s shootaround how many minutes he needed to reach the milestone.
“I was joking,” he said. “I didn’t expect to play that many minutes and then Michael Beasley turned his ankle in the second half and Spo said, ‘get back in.’ I turned to him and said the milestone is cool and all, but I don’t need to go back in. He said, ‘No, Mike got hurt.’ I’m like, ‘All right, if you put me in, let me go get it. And so once I sniffed it, it was like a dog to a T-bone.
“It makes me smile when I think about it,” he said. “Thinking about my career, and if you would have told me when I was a little boy, ‘One day you’re going to play 30,000 regular season NBA minutes,’ I’d say, ‘Get out of here.’ I needed 36 minutes going into [the game], and thanks to circumstance, I got about 39.”
Dan Marino agreed to appear on the Dolphins-owned radio show on WINZ-940 Wednesday but asked the show’s hosts not to ask him about his ongoing discussions with Dolphins owner Stephen Ross about a job in the organization.
Instead, he addressed two other topics:
### On Ryan Tannehill: “Sometimes owners and teams are not as patient as they should be. It’s the third year. It’s time… to get better…. You would like to see that….
“Everybody runs the same stuff. It’s a copycat league. It’s how you execute. It comes down to knowing your personnel and reading your coverage and making good decisions and being a leader and being a tough guy. You lead by example.
### He said Denver quarterback Peyton Manning told him he thinks new Dolphins and former Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno “is a really tough guy, a guy you can rely on, understands what his assignments are. He has good hands, a solid player and will bring some toughness for sure.”