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Heat vs. Bulls: How hurt is Dwyane Wade?

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There's something up with Dwyane Wade's right knee. How bad is it, and can he still help the Heat?

Jonathan Daniel

With the Miami Heat roaring past the Chicago Bulls, the question starts to come up: how healthy is Dwyane Wade, and how much does his injury hamper him from being useful?

It's clear that there's something up with Wade's right knee. He sat out several games towards the end of the year with the injury, as well as Game 4 of the team's opening round series against the Milwaukee Bucks. And in Game 4 against the Bulls, he banged it against Jimmy Butler, opting to land awkwardly on his other leg after a turnaround jumper before hobbling to the sideline. He'd eventually return and play 29 minutes, but finished 3-for-10 with six points, often defensively outmatched against guys like Marco Belinelli.

Oh, and also this:

Wade's not himself right now. Even though this season was his least productive, scoring-wise, since his rookie year. But he still averaged 21.2 points on 15.8 attempts.

In the playoffs? Factoring in Monday night's effort, he's averaging 12.3 points in the postseason. He's taken 86 shots and scored 82 points. That's a far cry from his top production.

Wade wasn't the star on the team that won the NBA championship last year, and he wasn't the star on a team that won 27 games in a row this year. But he was always a leading factor, the unquestioned second of the Big Three behind the NBA's back-to-back MVP.

Right now, he's not really much of anything to them. Can the Heat adapt without him as a productive scorer?

Quite frankly, the initial signs point to yes. For starters, there's the team's record without him of late. In 10 recent games Wade has missed, nine in the regular season, the Heat are 9-1, the one loss a game where Carmelo Anthony scored 50 points. Sure, only one of those games was against a team they could play in a later round - an 88-86 win over the San Antonio Spurs - but its still a ridiculously strong record.

And there's reason to believe those performances can hold up. if LeBron James doesn't have Wade alongside him like he has the past two years, he's stepped up his own game, and his performances right now can only be described as historically great. And although there's nobody like Wade off the bench, they have strong options. His immediate backup is Ray Allen. Allen's lost a step, but is still one of the deadliest shooters imaginable. And every player providing guard or small forward depth - Mike Miller, Norris Cole, even Rashard Lewis or James Jones if needs be - is proven as someone who can drill open looks.

Even if the Heat lose Wade's dynamism, they still have players capable of preventing the opposing defense from packing the lane to stop James. Wade's inability to go in later rounds could hurt, but it wouldn't be as deadly as a team losing a member of the so-called Big Three might sound.

Erik Spoelstra acknowledged Wade wasn't healthy, but applauded his effort:

The thing about Dwyane is he understands better than everybody right now, just help us win. He is, with his minutes. Is he giving 30 a night? No but he's giving a lot of good things. Defensively he's competing, he's helping rebound, and on the other end, he's making the right plays. Sometimes that's to throw it back. he'll continue to get in rhythm.

We won't know until we get back to Miami how he really feels. But he's a battler, he's a warrior, he'll fight through it. He never makes excuses for everything, he gives us everything he's got, and he's giving us minutes to help us win. everybody's looking at his shots, his points, but he's at a point where he knows that every game is different, every series is different, and he's helping us win.

Chris Bosh saw it as an opportunity to improve himself:

I think anytime you have a guy that's not 100 percent you have to give a little bit more effort. Dwyane's having a tough time kind of getting in some of the games and when you have an opportunity like that you have to step up to the plate. we don't always want to rely on the offensive output, you want to rely on the defense.

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