If any city knows how to celebrate an NBA championship, it's Miami. Unfortunately for those faithful Miami Heat fans who were overwhelmed by their 2011-12 triumph of the league, the celebration was cut short this past July.
Per a report via ESPN.com, 30-year-old superstar and fan favorite Dwyane Wade underwent surgery on his left knee. As a result, Wade was absent from Team USA's roster for the 2012 London Olympics and became a threat to miss early games in the 2012-13 regular season.
Just three months later, Michael Wallace of ESPN.com reports that Wade has proven to be ahead of schedule. The 2006 Finals MVP is already back on the court and expects to see action during multiple preseason games.
The question is, are we witnessing yet another rushed return from injury by Wade?
The truth about Wade is that he is one of the toughest, most dedicated players in the history of the NBA. His work ethic and will to fight through pain is legendary, which was on full display during Game 3 of the 2006 NBA Finals. Since then, those types of performances have become routine for Miami's favorite son.
For those unfamiliar, learn why D-Wade is a superstar.
Wade throws his body around the floor in ways that one can only compare to Allen Iverson. His non-stop motor has made him a fan favorite but also a victim of a long list of hard fouls and vicious injuries.
In his nine years in the league, Wade has never once played all 82 games of a regular season. He's missed at least 20 games in four separate years and was absent from 17 regular-season contests in 2011-12.
For that reason, it is fair to be skeptical of what may be a rushed return. Fortunately for the Heat and their faithful fans, D-Wade's knee should be of no concern.
Should Wade sustain a severe injury and miss an extended period of time, there is no way around how damaging that would be to the Heat's title chances. But it's hard to ignore the fact that adjustments could be made, and the championship-caliber pace could be maintained.
A year ago, the Heat would have replaced Wade with an out-of-position Shane Battier. This year, LeBron James will be able to work his drive-and-dish tendencies to perfection as he throws it out to the greatest three-point shooter of all-time: Ray Allen.
This is not to say that the Miami Heat are a better team without Wade. The fact is, they're well beyond elite when he is on the floor. They simply fall to elite with Allen as their starting 2.
To replace an All-NBA player with a legend sure doesn't seem too bad. Having a healthy Mike Miller and James Jones won't hurt, either.
Healthy for the Playoffs
No matter how many games Wade has missed during the regular season, he's always been there for the playoffs. And when he's present, the former Marquette star is capable of producing at a level that most players can only dream of.
So why worry about the regular season?
No longer are the Miami Heat built to be D-Wade or bust. Instead, they have LeBron James, Chris Bosh and a surplus of three-point marksmen to carry the load. In fact, that roster minus Wade would probably defeat a majority of the Eastern Conference's postseason contenders.
With two championship rings in Miami, even a banged-up Wade has proven capable of carrying a team through the playoffs. As long as he's good enough to go at that point, focusing on his injuries during the regular season is a waste of time.
All opposed can look to Wade's championship pedigree and history of overcoming ailments when it matters the most.
Those familiar with my work know that I rank Wade quite highly on my "greatest of all time" list. But he has a teammate that is more than capable of carrying the Miami Heat to 60 wins and a postseason run with or without him in the lineup.
He did it virtually alone in Cleveland, and he'll do it regardless of the help he receives in Miami. That man, of course, is LeBron James.
"The King" is the unanimous choice for the label of "best player in the world." James averaged 27.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game during the 2011-12 regular season and took home his third career MVP award.
During the playoffs, James upped those averages to 30.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 1.9 steals per game. This helped James win the 2012 Finals MVP award and destroy his reputation as a postseason failure.
It also proved that, for the first time in his career, D-Wade did not have to carry the franchise. The weight on those fragile knees has become a whole lot lighter.