As the 2012 NBA playoffs progressed, it became clearer and clearer that something was wrong with Dwyane Wade. Though not up to his usual standards, Wade's statistics were exemplary, and there was also his second-tier status on his Miami Heat team to consider; but Flash's usual flash and dash seemed hamstrung. Now we know why: Wade is set to have knee surgery, the Associated Press was first to report, which will keep him out of action for four-to-six weeks. Mindful of this new knowledge, Wade called USA Men's Basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski on Thursday to inform him that he would be out of the 2012 Olympics in London.
Wade's absence won't affect his team's status as the clear favorites, but it does deny Team USA a chance to showcase one of its best players as it attempts to defend its gold medal run from 2008. You might recall Kobe Bryant nailing the game-deciding jumpers late in that contest, but it was Wade's 27 points that led the team in its gold medal win over Spain — keeping Team USA from falling behind double-figures, at times. Wade gamely attempted to remain part of Team USA, as it whittles its roster down to 12 spots, but his health will have to take precedence. From the AP:
"I've decided to listen to my doctors and get the procedure I need on my knee," Wade told The Associated Press on Thursday. "USA Basketball said I had to what was best for me. They want me to be obviously as healthy as possible so I can continue to play this game at a high level. They were very supportive and told me if I ever want to come around the team, I'm welcome and that I'm part of the family."
This news should come as no surprise to Wade's NBA followers. The 2006 Finals MVP has made a career out of playing through nagging injuries; maladies brought on by his pell-mell style of matching drives to the basket with athletic chance-taking on defense.
[Slideshow:Dwyane Wade in action]
Wade had to have his knee drained during the playoffs, a seven-week run that saw his Heat win their first NBA championship with LeBron James and Chris Bosh on board; and though Wade averaged 23 points and a combined 9.5 rebounds/assists during that 23-game stint, his health came into question almost immediately into his team's triumphant postseason turn.
Luckily for Heat fans, Wade had the brilliant James on his side. And, crucially once he returned from an abdominal strain in the Eastern Conference finals, Bosh's all-around play helped push Miami over the top. Luckily for Team USA backers, a healthy James and a recovered Bosh will both be on hand in Las Vegas in the first week of July, as Team USA begins its practices.
Team USA won't lack for shooting guard help, either. Free-agent guard Eric Gordon, recovered from his own injury woes with the New Orleans Hornets in 2011-12, will be in Las Vegas, as will first-timer James Harden, still smarting from a tough end to his season with the Oklahoma City Thunder. They'll be around to support Kobe Bryant, who is no stranger to extensive knee therapy himself, with both James, Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala able to move down to the position in a pinch.
The decision is obviously a blow to Wade, who as late as last week was hoping to participate in the Games, but it's a necessary maneuver for someone who wasn't maneuvering with his usual aplomb in the compacted 66-game regular season and 23-game postseason. To take just a week off following June's Finals before heading to Las Vegas for practices (the team's first Olympic game, following five exhibitions, takes place on July 29 against France) would have been too much for the star — as it's still possible that this "cleanup procedure" (as described by the Associated Press) could lead to further work and rehab that goes beyond that four-to-six-week window.
[Slideshow: Miami celebrates second title]
Wade will still have memories of his bronze medal turn with Team USA in 2004, and the gold medal earned in 2008 during the Beijing Games. In the modern era that sees professional NBA stars taking to the Olympics two or sometimes three times in a career, Wade's disappointment is somewhat softened by the fact that he is a successful Olympic veteran, not yet 10 years into his already-storied NBA career.
More Olympic coverage from Yahoo!:
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• Michael Phelps loses mustache before U.S. trials
• Tony Parker's night club brawl may keep him out of Olympics