Amid lingering injuries, Heat need roster to match Dwyane Wade's effort
MIAMI -- Dwyane Wade turned back the clock with another vintage performance Wednesday night in a losing effort at home against the Utah Jazz.
It also recalled the years before the Big 3 era, when Wade was tasked with being the team's primary ballhandler, playmaker, shot creator and scorer. But that was then, and this is now, with the present situation more than what Wade bargained for when he re-signed over the summer at a discount to help bolster the roster.
Instead, the team continues to struggle with inconsistency after being decimated with injuries, and Wade has been forced to pick up the slack with leading scorer Chris Bosh out indefinitely with a calf strain. With the insertion of Chris Andersen as a starter for the first time with the Heat, the team used their 11th different starting lineup this season.
Wade understands the reality of what the Heat have faced this season, even as he tries to will them back into being one of the top teams in the East. But that doesn't mean his team can't put forth a better effort on the floor.
"We don't have as much as other guys," he said. "We are depleted. We could put a better effort out. I can't say that we are going to win every game or that we are more talented than every team we are playing, but our effort can be there. I thought tonight that after getting a good win on the road and then coming back with this kind of effort as a group is just unacceptable for us. That is our problem. We have to fix that."
Beyond that, there will always be the question, as to how much the Heat can push Wade to be the kind of player he was before the Big 3 era when he was still in his twenties and accustomed to having the ball in his hands so much.
Instead of a maintenance plan this season, Wade has played through back-to-back sets and tough stretches in the schedule. He has looked strong on the second nights, with his 70 combined points the last two games just the latest example. But his seven-game absence because of a hamstring injury in November -- his only health setback this season -- also serves as a reminder about just how durable Wade is at 32 and how much the Heat can and should rely on him, especially in Bosh's absence.
"After feeling good and then my hamstring took me out for two weeks, it kind of took me a while to really get my feet under me the way I want them to," Wade said. "I feel as of late it's coming back the way I needed. Tonight is a great step in the direction I needed to be at. I felt explosive. I felt I could do things on the floor I wanted to do. Obviously with Chris out, I've got to be a lot more aggressive. My nature is to be aggressive but also to pass the ball to my teammates."
At this point, the Heat were supposed to be learning how to adjust and compensate as best as they could without LeBron James. Now the team is fighting just to have a winning record in a weak Eastern Conference. The return of Wade from his hamstring injury hasn't helped much, as evidenced by their 3-7 record in December.
With the loss Wednesday, the Heat have dropped seven of their past eight home games and lost four straight home games for the first time since 2011.
"I don't have an explanation," Wade said. "It is just disappointing. Tonight, we just didn't play aggressive enough, we just let them flow into the game and they hit so many shots early. We wasted so much energy just trying to get back into the game. We just didn't have enough to get over the hump."
Wade's 42 points was the first time he scored over 40 since Feb. 25, 2011, and the most he's scored since Dec. 29, 2010, when he had 45 against the Houston Rockets. But it was wasted on a blowout loss and that likely disappointed Heat coach Erik Spoelstra the most aside from the poor effort.
"The fact that his body feels good," Spoelstra said when asked what the team could take away from Wade's dominant performance. "Save for the illness, his legs feel good. He's been putting in a lot of work. It's encouraging for us to see that he's able to play a back to back like that. We just collectively have to play better."