Dwyane Wade Rejoins Heat as Mike Miller Leaves for Two Months
The game was canceled – less than an hour before tipoff -- because of unsafe court conditions, but not before Dwyane Wade had rejoined his teammates, completed his own workout on the same court, then pronounced himself mentally and physically ready to be at his best once again.
The Three Kings of Miami can finally get this thing started.
Wade hadn't played with all his new teammates since pulling a hamstring muscle in the fourth minute of the first exhibition game Oct. 5. He hadn't even been with his teammates the last two weeks, away in a Chicago courthouse giving testimony in a bitter and especially messy child custody case involving his two boys.
"I'm feeling good,'' he said when he met with reporters following the game's cancellation. "I'll go on to the next day, get another practice under my belt, and be ready for the opener.''
The Heat open their much-anticipated season in Boston Tuesday against the Celtics, and Wade doesn't expect his extended absence to have any real effect on Miami's chase of a championship.
"It's not ideal (him being away). We would have loved to play together, practiced together more, but we weren't going to have a chance to win a championship in Game 1 of the season, or Games 2 or 3,'' Wade said. "We have 8-9 months to be around, to get it together. That's the main thing.''
Wade sounded more concerned with the more-serious absence of sharpshooting Mike Miller, who had surgery on his right thumb Friday and will be lost until January, according to Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra. The Heat, according to Spoelstra, will make a decision Saturday whether to sign a replacement.
Wade will practice, likely on his own, Saturday in Miami, then join his teammates Sunday for his first five-on-five workout since the injury.
"You never know from one injury to the next (how long it will take to be 100 percent),'' he said. "I've done it before and come right back with limited practice and played well. Sometimes you come back and the timing is off, or you're not full strength, but I feel good. It's about getting your confidence and conditioning back. That's the main thing.''
Even more than his physical condition, Wade sounded emotionally relieved to have finished his courtroom testimony in Chicago. He flew directly to Tampa, Fla., knowing he wouldn't be playing, but just happy to be back on the team.
"It's a big burden off of me. I did appreciate the opportunity to go in the courtroom, and for the first time have my voice heard, to tell my side. And that was great,'' he said. "It was unfortunate that it came this time of year, but fortunate it came this time of year. The court room is behind me. I was doing it for my two boys. It was important in so many ways. It wasn't ideal basketball-wise, but personally, it was the best thing that could have happened.''
Wade's return allows the Heat finally to move forward in putting together their trio of stars – LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Wade – in front of a new supporting cast.
"Right after the game last night (Thursday in Atlanta), I was starting to get texts from Dwyane saying he's jumping on a plane and wants to play tonight,'' Spoelstra said. "He's in great shape. His weight and body fat is less than what it was coming into training camp.''
When asked what the Heat have been missing in his absence, Spoelstra was quick with his answer.
"MVP talent and a guy who can really anchor what we are trying to do offensively and defensively,'' Spoelstra said.
While the officiating crew huddled with coaches and general managers from both teams, along with arena officials, contemplating whether the game could be played, Wade was on the court, running, shooting, doing drills mostly on his own.
Players from both teams agreed that the floor was unsafe. According to Tod Leiweike, CEO of the St. Pete Times Forum, the problem stemmed from the basketball floor that had come out of storage and hadn't been used for almost a year. It had been scrubbed with a cleaning solution that had too much oil, making the surface far from perfect.
"It (the floor) wasn't good,'' Wade said. "It wasn't going to be a safe surface to play a game on. Some areas were slippery and some had too much grip. I just feel bad for the fans.''
The players were off the floor when the announcement was made that the game would not be played. The arena already was half-filled. A cup of beer came flying out of the upper deck, hitting the court.
"It's an odd feeling, getting ready for a game, expecting to play, and then being told you can't,'' Spoelstra said. "It's really unfortunate for the fans.''