DALLAS – Dwyane Wade(notes) had six bags of ice strapped to his shins, knees and thighs as he sat in front of his locker late Thursday, scrolling through his BlackBerry messages. Sitting down wasn’t the problem. It was standing up that hurt.
Heat assistant Rogelio Perez reached out his arm, and Wade pulled himself to his feet and waddled to the shower.
Wade twice left the Heat’s 112-103 loss in Game 5 of the NBA Finals because of a hip contusion, returning on both occasions before finishing with 23 points and eight assists in 34 minutes. Despite the injury, the Heat’s leading scorer in the Finals believes the two off days will give him enough rest to help his team fight off elimination in Game 6 on Sunday in Miami. And if it’s not enough time?
Wade certainly won’t admit it.
“No problem at all,” Wade said. “I'll be good for Game 6.”
Wade refuses to talk about his injuries, of which, he appears to have more than one that he won’t acknowledge publicly. One apparent ailment is to his left shoulder, which was treated in the Heat’s clinching Game 5 victory in the Eastern Conference finals.
Luckily for Wade, the Heat had four days off before the NBA Finals began. He didn’t play hurt in the series' first four games while averaging 29.8 points, even taking the opportunity to dismiss talk that Dirk Nowitzki(notes) had fought through a fever and sinus infection in Game 4.
“Everyone is injured at this time,” Wade said Tuesday. “I’m not going to get into the fun-loving story of him being sick, either. Once you show up on the court, you show up on the court. Everyone is equal.”
On Thursday, Wade banged his left hip when he fell hard after driving into Mavericks forward Brian Cardinal(notes) with 4:01 left in the first quarter. After Wade made both free throws following Cardinal’s foul, he played in pain for a little more than a minute before being replaced.
As Wade approached the Heat’s bench, he dropped to the floor, then rolled onto his back. Soon after, Miami’s only dependable offensive weapon of the Finals was heading to the locker room.
Wade returned with 8:52 left in the second quarter, and finished the half with 11 points. But when the third quarter was about to begin, Miami trainer Jay Sabol told coach Erik Spoelstra that Wade wouldn’t be ready to start. Instead, Spoelstra went with reserve swingman Mike Miller(notes).
“Jay just said, ‘He can't start this half. I'll let you know in a few minutes whether he can go or not,’ ” Spoelstra said. “My plan was for him not to go.”
Wade loosened up and returned with 4:33 left in the third quarter and the Heat down 75-71.
“I can come out and help my team with my presence on the floor,” Wade said. “I'm smart enough to play the game without obviously being 100 percent. That's all I did when I came back. I wanted to help us get back in this ballgame.”
Wade was still in the lineup with Miami down five points entering the fourth quarter. He looked fine as he made a 3-pointer, then posed, to give the Heat held a 99-95 lead with 4:37 remaining. Wade scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, never coming off the floor. But he went scoreless after the 3-pointer and also committed a turnover.
After the game, Dallas had about as much remorse for Wade’s injury as Wade did for Nowitzki’s illness.
“When he came back in the game, he came back aggressive,” Mavericks guard Jason Terry(notes) said. “So I don't know if he was hurt or what. To us it doesn't matter. He was on the floor. He got opportunities. He drove to the basket. So he's a tough cover. If he's out there, he's a threat.”
Once Wade completed his postgame news conference, he used the table to help him to his feet. He spent about 15 minutes talking to his publicist Lisa Joseph and a number of other people from his Nike and CAA entourage, before showing just a slight limp as he walked to the Heat’s bus alongside teammates James and Chris Bosh(notes).
No, Wade doesn’t like talking about injuries – or even admit he has them. Considering what’s at stake, with the Heat facing elimination on Sunday, don’t expect him to change now.
“Once you're on the court, you're on the court,” Wade said. “I don't have no excuses. I was on the court. I was able to help my team get an opportunity to win. And I'll be fine Sunday.”
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