Wade’s cautious behavior paying off for Heat

MIAMI — For the sake of argument, Dwyane Wade was

asked prior to Tuesday’s game against Cleveland if he believes he would be

worthy as an All-Star pick had he not been voted in by the fans.

The thinking was the Miami stalwart had played in just 15 games when votes by

coaches for reserves were due Tuesday afternoon. Wade had missed nine games because

of injury.

“If they would have said, ‘You know what D, you didn’t play in enough

games, we’re going to go elsewhere,’ I couldn’t argue with that,” Wade

said.

Of course, it’s a moot point considering Wade easily outdistanced Boston’s

Rajon Rando in voting for the second starting guard spot in the East. Wade won’t

have to pay much attention when reserves are announced Thursday. The way Wade

has performed since his return, don’t expect any pundits during All-Star Weekend

to question his inclusion.

In the first nine games he played this season, Wade didn’t look like his usual

self. He averaged 19.6 points, on pace to easily be the lowest of his career

since his rookie season of 2003-04, and shot just 43.9 percent.

But Wade was hurting. He had been bothered by a foot injury and a strained

calf. Then when he went down Jan. 13 at Denver with a sprained ankle, the Heat

decided to rest Wade for a full two weeks to get him healthy.

That sure was a good move.

In his seven games back, Wade has averaged 23.6 points and shot 49.2 percent

from the field. On Tuesday night, Wade had a game-high 26 points and handed out

six assists in 35 minutes in Miami’s 107-91 win over visiting Cleveland.

“I’m feeling better and better every game,” Wade said.

“Hopefully, my play is showing it.”

Yes, it is. In the second quarter, Wade knocked the ball loose from Cavaliers

rookie sensation Kyrie Irving and then stole it from Irving. With 1:56 left in

the game, Wade had a brilliant drive down the lane for a dunk that gave the

Heat a 100-89 lead and cemented matters.

“He’s starting to get his legs under him and getting his rhythm,”

said Heat forward LeBron James, who added 24 points. “He’s shooting the

ball very well right now, and it’s good to have him back.”

In the nine games Wade played early in the season, the Heat went 5-4. In the

seven in which he’s been back, they’ve gone 6-1.

Before Wade sprained his ankle, he had talked about playing through his injuries.

But going down against the Nuggets turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

Wade turned 30 when he was out, adding awareness that there was no reason to

risk anything. The decision to rest him two weeks looks even smarter now when

one sees all the bodies dropping around the NBA during this compacted season by

the lockout.

“Just trying to be smart though that process, understanding that I wanted

to play, but I had a lot of nagging injuries, obviously the last one with the

ankle sprain,” Wade said. “But I took my time and I did my treatment

and came back feeling just a lot better.”

Even with Wade back and looking much like his old self, Heat coach Erik

Spoelstra is still being conservative. Wade, who logged 42 minutes in an

overtime game at the Los Angeles Clippers two nights before he hurt his ankle,

hasn’t played more than 37 minutes in any game since his return.

“I like where his minutes are at,” Spoelstra said. “Even as he’s

in good shape, he could play more. But I don’t want to extend him to 40 minutes

if at all possible. So he’s been getting better, and I think more comfortable

every single game.”

Wade still can’t hit a 3-pointer. The guy who made an average of nearly one a game

the previous three seasons is 0-for-7 this season. Wade airballed his only

attempt against the Cavaliers.

Still, it’s been a pretty good recent run for Wade.

“I’m feeling a lot better, getting back into the basketball shape I want

to be in,” Wade said.

By the time the Feb. 26 All-Star Game comes around in Orlando, Wade just might

be all the way back.

Chris Tomasson can be reached at christomasson@hotmail.com or on Twitter @christomasson