Dwyane Wade nearly made it halfway through the season without missing a game due to injury. That streak ends tonight, with the Heat announcing he will miss the Denver game with injuries to both shoulders.
Wade missed one game earlier this season because his son was hospitalized. But otherwise, he had perfect attendance, after missing 17, 13, 28 and 20 games the past four seasons.
“Dwyane’s shoulders were really limiting him,” Erik Spoelstra said. “He fought through it. He will get some extra treatment today and tomorrow. We will continue to re-evaluate him every day.
“One is a slight sprain. The other is a little bit of an impingement issue that he’s had. All things considered, these are things we can treat.
“It has been limiting him for much of this road trip. He’s been powering through it. The worst he felt was in the Clipper game. He mentioned yesterday that he wasn’t making progress and might have been taking a step back. This morning, he was going to see how he felt with treatment here. It didn’t really respond. We will re-evaluate him Saturday.”
Is this a short-term thing?
“I trust Dwyane’s healing ability and our training staff,” Spoelstra said. “The best thing for these type of things are doing as much as you can of both of those. He had a good today, good day yesterday.”
Spoelstra said he isn’t certain who will start in Wade’s absence.
Gerald Green is starting in Wade's absence, alongside Beno Udrih (filling in for injured Goran Dragic), Luol Deng, Chris Bosh and Hassan Whiteside.
Meanwhile, the Heat sent Chris Andersen back to Miami for an MRI on his injured left knee. Andersen has played just 36 minutes all season.
As Ethan noted on the Heat blog today, one of the luxuries for the Big Three era Heat teams was a supporting cast comprised largely of seasoned, savvy veterans who knew what to do and when to do it.
This Heat incarnation clearly has fewer of those types of players, a reality reinforced in recent days.
That has required an “adjustment” for the Heat’s leaders, Dwyane Wade acknowledged today, hours before Miami plays the Nuggets here in Denver.
“For me and Chris [Bosh] and [Udonis Haslem], this is going to be one of our greatest challenges from that standpoint,” said Wade, adding he hopes to play tonight as he deals with bruises on both shoulders.
“We’ve had some teams here, especially coming off of four years of a veteran team that everyone policed themselves. It wasn’t always great [then], either. We had moments similar to this. But it’s different from a standpoint of having guys that have been there before and guys that haven’t. So that’s the challenge. It’s an adjustment. You’re in the process of a rebuilding stage; you’ve got to go through it.”
The Heat certainly still wants accomplished, high-IQ veteran role players such as those that were key cogs during the LeBron James years, a group that included Shane Battier, Ray Allen, James Jones, Mike Miller and others.
But the best of those types of players typically want to join teams that are considered genuine title contenders, and the Heat --- limited by cap restraints --- also felt a need to infuse youth and athleticism.
So the key supporting pieces around Wade, Bosh, Goran Dragic and Luol Deng are players who are young (Hassan Whiteside, Justise Winslow, Tyler Johnson) or NBA nomads (Gerald Green, Beno Udrih).
Amar’e Stoudemire, Chris Andersen and Haslem bring veteran savvy but play limited minutes.
The other challenge with quickly correcting problems with these players, Wade said, is the introverted demeanor of several of them.
“We’ve got a lot of internal quiet guys and sometimes when things go wrong, when there’s frustration, where you get quiet and get into your own inner dilemma, whatever you have going on,” Wade said. “When you play team sports, you have to get out of it. It happens to everybody. It’s not just young players; it’s veteran players as well. We all just have to do a better job of it.”
On past Heat teams, most of the public on-court scoldings were directed at Mario Chalmers. But the Heat had two such incidents during Wednesday’s loss at the Clippers, with Whiteside and Green the source of Wade’s ire.
After squandered 2-on-1 fastbreak, Wade yelled at Green for not being in the right spot. Earlier in the game, he grabbed the back of Hassan Whiteside’s jersey and admonished him for not being the right place on the offensive end.
Wade downplayed those incidents on Friday, saying verbal policing is part of his job.
“That’s basketball,” he said. “We all stay on top of each other at certain times. When you play team sports, you can’t take nothing personal. Guys are doing things to try to help you be better, to try to help the team be better.
“I don’t look at anything as a confrontation. I look at it as a discussion on the basketball floor. You try to figure it out and move on. When you sit and talk to each other, we let everybody know that nothing that is said on the court, I’m not going to take it personally. In that moment, we can yell at each other. That’s my job as a leader on this team to get on guys. And vice versa.
“If someone sees me doing something they don’t like, I expect them to get on me. I expect coach to tell me the other night about my [seven] turnovers. I expect leaders to tell me certain things. That’s team sports. If you can’t take it, you shouldn’t be playing a team sport. You should be playing an individual sport.”
Bosh also said the public scoldings were “OK” with him and “I hope everybody sees it because they know we care. If you’re just being quiet and kind of passive, that’s not good for anybody.”
The visceral, exasperated reaction that dominated the dialogue after the Clippers game was largely gone Friday morning, with Bosh noting that Wednesday’s drubbing against the Clippers was addressed during a constructive film session Thursday.
"It happened. Big deal,” Bosh said. “The part I liked about it is we nipped it in the bud as soon as it happened. As long as it doesn’t happen again. It’s going to happen to teams.”
But asked if everything was at peace and straightened out, Bosh said: “Yeah, because we’re not playing basketball. Once chaos comes back, it’s just another chance to get better. We can talk about what we’re supposed to do. Until that altitude gets to you and they score two buckets in a row and you’re down five, something like that, [you don’t know]….
“We just have to have better trust in the system. We have to have patience. We just have to work the game.
“You have so many guys, myself included, that try to will it when things get tough and we don’t want to be in that situation. But
against good teams on the road, things like that are going to happen. Nobody is immune to blowing leads.”
Wade, when asked whether Thursday’s meeting resolved on-court issues, said: It’s going to be a few games [to know]. It’s not like, you meet and everything is fine the next game. It just doesn’t work that way. Biggest thing is to try to continue to keep communicating when times are tough is when you have to do it even more.”
Spoelstra said the message at Thursday’s team meeting was simple: “Get better. That’s what we do. Nothing dramatic. We went through the film of the Clipper game. It was not a game that was acceptable for us.”
Bosh was troubled by the lack of concentration from some players during Wednesday’s game. That “hasn’t been a problem [all season]; it’s just been a challenge,” he said. “When we’re concentrating and we give that focused effort, we’re a very good
team. That’s one of the hardest things to do in 82. That’s why this gig is so tough. We did a really good job of owning up to it.”
The Heat entered Friday in sixth in the East at 22-17, 2.5 games behind No. 2 Toronto but just two games ahead of No. 9 Boston.
So have the Heat’s recent struggles left Wade discouraged about this team’s chances of legitimately challenging Cleveland in the East?
“No,” he said. “I have been very consistent with my message with this team all season long. We’re not there yet. We’ve got a lot of work to get there. Cleveland is so far ahead of us as a team that went to the Finals last year. You have to go through this kind of stuff to get to where they’re at. It’s a tough month for us. We’ll see how we come out of it, not even record wise, see how we come out of it as a team,
“Everybody in the league, especially the Eastern Conference, has lost three in a row, four in a row. I’m not worried about that, more so about how we’re approaching things. All this that’s going on in January is all a part of this team’s story. Nobody knows how it’s going to shake out yet.”
Bosh said there’s no need for emotional team meetings: “We’ve had enough heart to hearts. We’re men. Only so many heart to hearts you can have. You’ve got to save that for when things get really tough.”
### Spoelstra said Whiteside likely will return to the starting lineup tonight after playing off the bench against the Clippers, but that his minutes would continue be monitored because of knee soreness.
“He made great strides in the last few days,” Spoelstra said. “The 27 minutes were probably more than I wanted to play him but he responded great.”
### Spoelstra said it’s too early to tell whether Goran Dragic will be able to return in a week from a calf injury, but “from a first assessment on it, we feel much more encouraged about it.”
UM GETS KEY COMMITMENT
Coconut Creek three-star safety Malek Young, a US Army All-American, today became the first Georgia commitment to flip to UM since Mark Richt was hired.
Young, 5-9, is rated the nation’s 31st-best cornerback by rivals.com. Clemson, FSU, Michigan and Texas were among his numerous other offers.
"I have an official visit to Miami next week and that's my only other visit, it's done for me,” he told Canesport.com.
He had four punt returns and three kickoff returns as a junior, but teams kicked away from him last season.
Young and Tyler Byrd give the Hurricanes two US Army All American cornerbacks in this class, as well as South Dade’s James Wiggins.
MORTENSEN BATTLES CANCER
Sad news from ESPN today; the network announced that NFL reporter Chris Mortensen is stepping away while he battles throat cancer.
Mortensen’s statement: "More than a week ago, I was diagnosed with a Stage IV throat cancer. My focus shifted significantly to gathering information about the specifics of this cancer. The initial diagnosis was confirmed Friday and there is another test remaining that will determine the best possible treatment plan that will commence in the very immediate future.
“Consequently, with the support and encouragement from ESPN president John Skipper and many others at ESPN, I am temporarily stepping away from my normal NFL coverage duties to better engage this opportunity to fight the good fight that is projected to affect almost 1.7 million Americans with new cases in 2016.
“I have many inspirational examples of men, women and children who have faced this very fight. We all know somebody, right? I also have the love and prayers of my wife Micki, my family, my friends, colleagues and, most of all, my faith that serve as sources of tremendous strength. I have a peace about this and look forward to the battle.”
ESPN president John Skipper said: “Our thoughts are with Chris and his family as he faces this challenge. He is an extremely respected colleague, who has the complete support of his entire ESPN family. We wish him strength and hope in the battle ahead and look forward to his return whenever he chooses.”