It sounds like a condition severe enough to shut down most players for the remainder of their season, and one too painful for most players to even considering working through. Miami Heat legend Dwyane Wade, though, is not most players. The man has been working through a series of injuries throughout his pro career, a group of mostly knee-related maladies that had many wondering if he would have to limp off into the sunset far earlier (like in 2008, or during last year’s playoffs) than his talent and drive would deserve.
Now we have news about how Wade handles his latest setback. Wade physically pushes his right kneecap into a less stressful and painful place before games so as to give his team productive minutes. Because the kneecap won’t stick, though, Wade has to move it back over with one of the myriad accessories he has to wear to minimize the stress and swelling that his body deals with over the course of a pro basketball game.
With the Heat up decidedly in their Eastern Conference semifinals over the Chicago Bulls, wouldn’t it seem right for Wade to sit out a game? He’s done it before, suiting up but not playing in the deciding Game 4 of his team’s first-round sweep of the Milwaukee Bucks because of the bone bruise in his knee, an injury that was made even worse in Game 4 after Dwyane bumped knees with Bulls swingman Jimmy Butler.
Wade appears to be having none of it, though. He’s officially listed as a game-time decision heading into Wednesday night’s Game 5. Which, in Wadesian terms, means the guy is playing. Is Wadesian thinking the correct approach, here?
The earliest the conference finals can start is May 21, but there’s a chance that the series won’t begin until a week from Wednesday if the New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers flail about and take their semifinals series to seven games. While the Heat are a top-heavy group that sometimes falls at the hands of lacking bench help, they’re also a team featuring the game’s best player, going up against a Bulls roster working without two of its top three players in Derrick Rose and Luol Deng, with a defender in Kirk Hinrich who has given Wade fits dating back years also looking on from the sideline.
It’s true that the Bulls miraculously pulled off the shocking upset in Game 1, taking down the defending champs to start the series. And while Game 3 could have gone either way, the Heat won Games 2 and 4 by a combined 60 points. The Heat shouldn’t prepare for yet another 30-plus point blowout in Game 5, but it isn’t as if missing Wade’s playoff averages of 12.3 points and 10 combined assists/rebounds is the worst thing for the team. Why not take advantage of a potential seven-day layoff between the morning after Game 4, and the start of the conference finals?
With that in place, it’s worth noting that this injury isn’t going to really mend itself just because it got a week off in May.
Topping that are the fears Wade probably has regarding an extended absence. Because he sat out Game 4 of the opening round, and because Chicago’s first-round series with the Brooklyn Nets went seven games, a full 10 days passed between Dwyane’s last game against Milwaukee and his first game against Chicago. Wade was no doubt displeased with his Game 1 work — his rhythm and decision-making was off, and he needed 16 shots to score 14 points in the loss while fouling five times.
Chicago, though impressive with its guile, is not at Indiana’s level right now. And if the Pacers do prevail with their current 3-1 series lead over New York, time off would mean Wade sitting for a week before taking on defensive hounds like Lance Stephenson and Paul George in the third round. Battered and beleaguered though they may be, players will always pick rhythm over rest.
This is likely the scenario here, as Wade (more than anyone) understands that this injury isn’t going away until the hottest days of summer. We should all just try to avert our eyes when Dwyane gets to kneecap-relocatin’ on the bench. Because that is some cringe-worthy stuff right there.