Just after noon Eastern on Saturday, Miami Heat beat reporter Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel tweeted a bit of news from the team's off-day media availability: "Dwyane Wade on court shooting without any protection on bruised left hip. He's not even limping. Now exhale."
While the star shooting guard was held out of the contact portion of Heat practice, according to ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters that Wade went through the team's walkthrough and would be "ready to go" for Game 6 of the NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks at AmericanAirlines Arena on Sunday night. Later, Wade said, "I'll be totally fine when it comes to tomorrow," adding that he doesn't plan to wear any extra padding on the floor, according to NBA.com Mavericks reporter Bryan Gutierrez.
The news comes two days after Wade suffered a bruised left hip following a collision with Mavericks reserve Brian Cardinal during the first quarter of Dallas' 112-103 win on Thursday night. It's not surprising — Wade said after Game 5 that he'd certainly be ready to go and play effectively, even if less than 100 percent, come Sunday — but it still likely brought relieved smiles to many Floridian faces.
To recap: Just under eight minutes into Game 5, Wade took the ball above the 3-point arc on the left side, drove left around a Chris Bosh screen of on-ball defender Jason Terry and gained the paint, where's been wreaking havoc throughout the NBA Finals. Cardinal stepped up and positioned himself to take a charge; Wade countered with the signature two-step/Euro-step that still has Kevin Garnett spinning.
This time, though, the Heat star didn't clear the defender; their right shoulders connected in what was ruled a blocking foul on Cardinal, sending both sprawling to the floor and Wade to the line for two shots. Wade soon began to grimace and limp — during a Dallas timeout with 2:58 remaining in the quarter, he laid down on the floor in front of the Miami bench, then went back to the Heat locker room. News quickly came back that Wade had sustained a bruised left hip and that his return was questionable.
Wade returned, of course, scoring 15 of his team-leading 23 points after the injury, playing the entire fourth quarter and leading all scorers with 10 points in the final frame as Miami's comeback effort fell short in the face of Dallas' white-hot shooting. He did, however, leave the court twice for treatment, sitting out the start of the second half and managing just 34:27 of floor time, his lowest total since Game 2 of the Heat's first-round series against the Philadelphia 76ers.
While Wade said he was able to be "effective in a sense" while playing the game's final 16-plus minutes, ESPN.com's Marc Stein argued that the hobbled hip "seemed to rob Wade of his usual slashing prowess." Yahoo!'s Marc J. Spears reported that Wade needed help to stand up from his seat in the locker room and waddle to the shower after Game 5.
Despite the evident discomfort, Wade refused to use the injury as an excuse for any possible future struggles or as an explanation for Thursday's loss itself. That was nice of him, but wholly unnecessary, as just about anyone looking to explain the Heat defeat had already felt quite comfortable deciding to blame LeBron James' now-legendarily quiet fourth quarter, or point toward Dallas' insane offense eventually shattering Miami's defense.
Plus, if they chose to dig a little deeper, they could've found out that the Heat were actually +4 in the 13 minutes and 33 seconds when Wade was off the court, offering the answer of "Negatory" to ESPN.com Daily Dime Live host Zach Harper's question as to whether Wade's dip in floor time mattered all that much. In fact, as shown in this ESPN graphic captured by The Victory Formation's Parrish Walton, there's an argument to be made that James performed better with Wade off the court, reviving the season-long debate over how Miami's offense would function with two ball-controlling superstar wings in big situations.
Thanks to two days of treatment and rest that have improved Wade's wheel and got him feeling better, it looks like we'll get at least one more opportunity, on the biggest stage of the season, to see how he and James manage. Lucky us.