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Dwyane Wade Should Pace Himself, Even If Fans Freak Out—and Heat Have Options

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Dwyane Wade Should Pace Himself, Even If Fans Freak Out—and Heat Have Options

MIAMI — Your neighborhood needs a makeover. It is a bit broken down, a bit roughed up. It needs new streets, new buildings, new restaurants, new attractions. It needs these improvements not just for the aesthetics, but for the property values.

You know it, and you even say it.

But would you be willing to suffer a little short-term annoyance because you recognize the long-term payoff?

Or would you still complain daily about the construction?

Perhaps this isn't a perfect analogy, but it popped to mind in consideration of Dwyane Wade's current circumstances with the Miami Heat as he nurses his knees, both of which have troubled him in recent years.

Most Heat fans say they recognize the long-term benefits of Wade pacing himself, even if that means skipping the back ends of back-to-backs, and even if that means doing so less than a week into a new season.

Yet there was still a lot of stressing and griping on social media this past week when Wade, sore after playing 36 minutes in Tuesday's win against the Chicago Bulls, heeded the trainers' advice and skipped Wednesday's contest against the Philadelphia 76ers. That concern was so acute that, prior to Friday's game in Brooklyn, Erik Spoelstra felt compelled to directly address it.

"To Heat Nation, don't be alarmed," the coach said, using a catchphrase for what may have been the first time. "This was just being proactive. Dwyane feels great and strong. He's fit, we want him to continue to progress and get healthier and stronger as the season goes on. And he's felt terrific. So it's still big picture. It's early in the season right now. He will play back-to-backs. He will play a lot of games as long as he continues to feel like he feels right now." 

Friday night, he appeared to feel fine, scoring 21 points with five rebounds and four assists in Miami's 101-100 loss. The most positive sign? His 11 free-throw attempts.

Al Bello/Getty Images

After the game and his general media session, Wade told Bleacher Report that he is cognizant of the conflicting expectations and wishes he could blow the whistle on some of the second-guessing related to his health.

A double standard?

Yes, he says, and not just in this case.

"I just have one, period," Wade said, smiling while shaking his head. "I don’t know where it came from, but I have one, man. I have one. I don’t know why. But you know I’m not going to whine about it, cry about it. I don’t do what I do for other people. You feel me? What’s important to me is what I can do for my team and being smart. You can’t have it both ways."

As in wanting him to heal, rest, recover and yet always play?

"Yeah," Wade said. "This is a marathon, man, it’s not a sprint. You know, at the end of the day, I’m always going to do what’s best for these guys, what’s best for the team and what’s best for myself. I can’t worry about what people say. I miss one game, a back-to-back, and everybody’s going crazy. When everyone was saying I should rest. You can’t please people, man."

With that said, he understands that Heat fans are just excited the season has started again, and "obviously they want their team out there. But they want me healthy come playoffs, April to June. So they'll be all right."

Maybe.

Or maybe, if he doesn't play in the next two back ends of back-to-backs—against lesser lights Charlotte and Orlando—the freakout will resume.

Probably the latter.

Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

The insecurity among Heat fans may be even more intense this season than last, because Mike Miller is now in Memphis. Miller filled in for Wade as a starter 13 times in 2012-13, and Miami went 11-2. Spoelstra tabbed Roger Mason Jr., to start in Philadelphia, and Miami was down 17-0—with Mason missing a shot and committing two turnovers—before Mason went to the bench.

Mason may improve with greater comfort in the new system and with his new teammates.

Spoelstra could turn to shooting specialist James Jones.

Or the coach could try a third option.

Last month, Spoelstra told Bleacher Report that while he preferred not to start Ray Allen last season in order to help him acclimate to a full-time reserve role, he might be open to doing so this season.

Friday, Allen—who had started in 1,140 of his 1,148 regular-season games prior to last season—indicated that he would be more than open to that opportunity.

"You know, I came off the bench when I was in college, and you just always brought the energy," Allen said. "You learn how to get prepared the way you get prepared. But for me, I love when I’m starting, because you know how to get your body going at that moment. Jump ball, you’re right into it.

"For what we have on this team, everybody has been accustomed to just kind of fit in, and you just learn how to prepare. And whether I’m starting or coming off the bench, I’m always ready and I’m excited to do it. If that’s what he needed me to do, I’d be ready to do it and I’d be excited to do it."

Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Allen, lighter after starting the paleo diet, has appeared even more spry this season than last, when he averaged a career-low 25.8 minutes per game. He said Spoelstra needn't have worried that, in his first season with the Heat, he might have been confused by fluctuating status, out of and then into the lineup.

"Yeah, I would have been completely OK with it," Allen said. "It would have been great. Just the thing about the routine, is the routine allows me to be prepared for anything. It’s not like the routine keeps me set in my ways where I can only do this way. You know, you get to where you need to be early, and then whenever anything arises, you put yourself in a situation to adjust. So that’s how I am. Whatever this team needs me to do, the coaching staff, I’m always ready to do it."

Allen may get the chance.

Dwyane Wade, after all, is still under construction, and will be for some time with a long-term payoff in mind. There's no need for him to apologize to anyone for the inconvenience.

 

Ethan Skolnick covers the Heat for Bleacher Report.

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