With Wade out, Heat turn to Big 2 to end skid

With Wade out, Heat turn to Big 2 to end skid

Published Jan. 15, 2012 2:54 p.m. ET

MIAMI — The good thing about having a cupboard full of stars is you still have a chance to cook up something good even when one is out.

Over the past two seasons, when Miami guard Dwyane Wade has been sidelined, the Heat are 7-2. That's 4-2 last year and 3-0 this season.

Wade's latest injury is a sprained right ankle, suffered Friday at Denver. While Heat officials are pretty much giving only name, rank and serial number when it comes to Wade's status for Tuesday's home game against San Antonio, teammates are not expecting him to play.

Despite Miami being embroiled in a three-game losing streak, that's not all that bad. Heat players know they can win without Wade, who was banged up even before Friday with a left foot contusion and calf strain. And they need him to be healthy for when the games really count.

"He probably needed to sit down and rest in the first place," forward Chris Bosh said Sunday following practice.

"Sometimes an injury will do that to you. But it's a blessing in disguise. We need him to be healthy when it's time to make a run in the playoffs. That's the most important thing. So he needs to just chill out right now, get better, and we'll hold it down until he can come back."

Bosh said the Heat will "prepare like he's not going to play" against the Spurs. Forward LeBron James is in that mode.

In the two games earlier this season in which James played and Wade didn't, James averaged 29 points, just shy of his 29.6 seasonal number. But James sounds as if he's ready to put up some really serious totals.

"I got to step it up even more offensively and defensively and revert back to some of the ways I was back in Cleveland," James, who played for the Cavaliers from 2003-10, said about playing without Wade.

"For the most part, I had to be the No. 1 option offensively. I had to just put a little bit more pressure on myself. … With D-Wade being out, I know I have to step it up a little bit more offensively."

Wade, who was undergoing treatment Sunday and not available for comment, is the greatest player in Heat history. He's eventually heading for the Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., and his jersey to the rafters of AmericanAirlines Arena.

But Wade, even before his ankle sprain, has been playing hurt most of the season. And that hasn't always been beneficial to the Heat.

In Miami's four losses, Wade has shot 38 percent. That includes a 4-of-17 showing Jan. 2 against Atlanta and going 6-of-17 last Wednesday at the Los Angeles Clippers.

"That's the No. 1 thing for us, honestly," James said of getting Wade healthy. "He's been playing the last few weeks injured. So we want to try to get him healthy. Even if it causes him to miss a few games, we'd rather him be 100 percent healthy."

Injuries are tougher on players when they older. Wade does turn 30 Tuesday.

"In NBA years, that's like 90," Bosh cracked.

While having a three-game losing streak might not suggest a great time for Wade to take some time off, Miami (8-4) does have eight of its next nine at home, even if that includes some toughies. This week’s menu includes the Spurs, the Lakers on Thursday
and Philadelphia on Saturday, teams with a combined record of 27-12.

With a rare three straight days without playing during this condensed season, the Heat took off Saturday before planning for two straight days of practice. Sunday's session included plenty of video watching and teaching on the court.

"I hope we're uncomfortable about what happened on the road and we learned some lessons," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of his team having just gone 2-3 on a trip.

Sunday's session also included swingman Mike Miller doing contact work with some other reserves. Miller, who had sports hernia surgery Nov. 28, reiterated he's ready to make his season debut Tuesday. Spoelstra has declined to speculate when Miller might be ready.

But that is the Heat way. While some teams give possible timetables for how long a player might be out, Miami's injury reports generally just list the player and his injury.

"There is no timetable on it," Spoelstra said of Wade. "He's up walking around. He's working out (Sunday). But we're not going to put a timetable on when he'll come back. Thankfully, he's not in a cast or a boot.''

That indeed is good for the Heat. And even if Wade misses a couple of games, that might not be too bad if it also helps heal his other injuries.

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