Dwyane Wade is hurting, but at least the Miami Heat have a deep bullpen.
Mike Miller obviously is no Wade, a seven-time All-Star guard. But if Wade, who suffered a sprained right ankle Friday at Denver, can’t play Tuesday against San Antonio it might prove to be an ideal time to dust off Miller.
Miller, who underwent sports hernia surgery Nov. 28, has yet to suit up this season. But Miller said he’s been cleared to play, and he’s pushing for Tuesday.
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“Yeah, I hope,” said the swingman. “Obviously, that’s my game plan. But, right now, it’s up to them.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra declined to speculate on Miller’s availability for this week. But it figures to help his cause that Miami at least will have some practice time before the game against the Spurs at AmericanAirlines Arena.
“They would like to see me practice, get out there and do something,” said Miller, who had limited practice opportunities during the Heat’s just-concluded five-game trip. “I don’t blame them. We’ll see how it goes.”
Heat fans sure would like to see Miller, 31, do something significant on the court for them. Miller signed a five-year, $30 million contract before last season but injuries to both thumbs, to a shoulder and a concussion limited him to just 41 games. He averaged just 5.6 points while shooting 40.1 percent.
“Obviously, you want to play well,” Miller, who has a 13.2 career scoring average, said of his desire to show the Heat it was a wise signing.
Miller could prove important if Wade can’t play. The Heat star came down wrong on his foot midway through the fourth quarter of their 117-104 loss to the Nuggets, and limped to the locker room.
The Heat don’t yet know the status of Wade for Tuesday. The team flew home immediately after the loss, which was their third straight, and didn’t practice Saturday.
“I’ve been here before,” said Wade, who also has been bothered by a left foot contusion that has cost him three games and by a strained calf. “I’m a professional. I understand. I went through seasons where I played 79 games. I went through seasons where it’s been up and down. So the only thing you can do is try to get back on the court whenever you can. It’s always frustrating when you can’t play. But it’s my ninth year in the league. I’ve been through this rodeo before.”
Regardless of his status, Wade said he’s “very excited” to have Miller returning. He would give the Heat yet another outside shooting threat and provide some more veteran grit.
“It’s great,” said forward Chris Bosh. “We know what Mike can bring. We want to get him in (game) shape as soon as possible so we can get him out on the floor. He’s a guy that just really stretches the floor. He can rebound the basketball. He’s an underrated rebounder. We need Mike, and the sooner we have him the better for us. We don’t shoot many threes right now. But that’s something we’re going to need eventually when the playoffs come.”
Miller’s career three-point percentage is 40.4 percent. That’s also precisely the career three-point percent of Heat specialist James Jones, but Miller provides more versatility.
After all, Miller, coming out of Florida, was the NBA Rookie of the Year for Orlando in 2000-01. He’s averaged as much as 18.5 points during his 12-year career.
But last season’s injury-riddled campaign was a real downer. Last fall, when Miller had rounded back into form, he got hurt again.
“I was doing a basketball workout, and I felt it real bad one day,” Miller said. “I was doing wall-touch things when I turned one time and there was a severe pain. And I shook it off and I kept working out and worked the next day and saw a trainer the (day after that). I was told to rest a bit.”
Soon, Miller was diagnosed with the sports hernia. And, after the NBA lockout was settled in late November, speculation ran rampant that he could be an immediate amnesty victim.
The new collective bargaining agreement gives teams a one-time chance to waive a player and his money owed wouldn’t count against the salary cap. Teams can do it in any season as long as the contract had been signed before the lockout.
“Not really,” Miller said when asked if his injury ever made him feel he was more likely to be let go by Miami. “Obviously, playing 12 years, I know the business side of basketball, and I understand that teams got to do what’s best for them. You can’t control injuries. If I could have controlled it, I wouldn’t have had any injuries last year.”
Miller had hoped to return from his latest injury for the Dec. 25 regular-season opener. But it’s going to end having sidelined him more than three weeks longer.
“Right now, it’s kind of a waiting game on them,” Miller said.
Wade’s injury might lead the Heat to not wanting to wait much longer.