Last season, Dwyane Wade and his knee problems almost cost the Miami Heat the NBA title. If a three-peat is to be achieved, or even another NBA finals appearance, something has to be done to keep Wade a bit fresher heading into the crucial stages of the season.
In hindsight, Wade did quite well in the NBA finals, considering the pain he’s been playing through. He missed only one game during the postseason, and averaged 19.6 points per game in the series vs the Spurs, including 23 points in game 7 and 32 points in game 4, which was a vintage big three performance on the Miami side of the ball.
The series against the Pacers was the more worrying one, as the physicality of the 7 games against the punishing Indiana Pacers showed Wade at his weakest, suddenly looking like an old player, who has too many years of taking punishment behind him. He averaged 15.4 points per game in the series, struggling when facing Lance Stephenson and Paul George more than once, although he once again have a very strong finish with 21 points and 9 rebounds in game 7.
One of the most obvious things about Wade this past season, in which he also missed 12 regular season games, was him avoiding to take the three pointer. His mid-range jumper is excellent, but Wade continues to rely on his ability to get by defenders when it’s a half court offense. He shot only one three pointer per game during the regular season, and a total of four shots from beyond the arc during the entire playoffs, including 0 in the final eight games of the postseason.
Wade has kept talking about it being a kind of pain that he’s just going to have to live with as he extends his NBA career, and has a chance to become a free agent at the end of the 2014 season. With it being a player option for two more years with over $20 million on both of them, it’s hard to believe Wade will give up on that opportunity, and it’s hard to believe anyone will give him the same salary as he enters his 12th NBA season.
But what about his 11th? According to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel, the Heat have been pondering the situation for quite some time, but eventually, it’s not going to be Erik Spoelstra who makes the decision. It’s going to be Pat Riley and Dwyane Wade together.
The answer? If rest is the only thing that promises a healthier and fresher Wade in the playoffs, even if it means losing a few more games during the regular season, it’ll probably a risk they’re willing to take. The plan is to ask Wade to start giving up on certain games, like the second night of a back-to-back or skip final games on certain grueling road trips.
The initial assessment is that Wade isn’t going to be too happy about sitting down, but the Heat have already done this before as a precautionary measure over the last couple of seasons when LeBron James, Wade and Bosh had small injury concerns. All three players, but especially Wade, are entering a stage of their careers that is about giving up on more and more regular season games so that they can shine in the playoffs, which is what really matters after all.