Miami Heat's Ecstasy, or Agony, Still Tied to Dwyane Wade's Knees

Ethan Skolnick@@EthanJSkolnickNBA Senior WriterDecember 8, 2013

Dec 7, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Miami Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade (3) holds his knee in pain during the first quarter against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS—The clock stopped with 6:13 left in Saturday's first quarter.

Then, so did some pulses.

Dwyane Wade was on the floor, on his stomach, and trainer Jay Sabol and concerned teammates were on their way. The Heat's championship chances, it seemed, were again on the decline.

Shane Battier wasn't as worried, but only because he was so near to the scene.

"I was there, to see he banged his knee," Battier said.

Wade later confirmed that is what occurred. His right knee, the one with bone bruises that still won't fully heal, the one that required offseason OssaTron treatment, had again been knocked in a sensitive spot—a spot somehow not protected by his kneepad.

"I know that's painful," Battier said. "He doesn't have that much down there anymore. If he had twisted it, it would have been a little different."

Instead, it was a short-lived scare, rather than a long-term setback, with Wade returning at the start of the second quarter to score 15 more points and record three more assists in a 103-82 rout of the Minnesota Timberwolves. One assist was a spectacular backboard setup for a LeBron James slam.

When did Wade decide to make that pass?

"At the last second," Wade said. "I didn't know what I was going to do. I just knew he was trucking me down. If I would have went to dunk, he probably would have blocked it."

"I was just expecting a lob," James said. "We've definitely got a great chemistry. I didn't know where he was going to go with it, but I can go get it wherever he throws it."

So that was a highlight.

But this game spotlighted something else: how much rests on Wade's two damaged knees, and how much can go wrong, even with him taking great pains to rest throughout the season.

It is something James cannot control as he chases another title.

Prior to Saturday's contest, James promised to emphasize rebounding more. That he did, grabbing 14 in just 31 minutes, helping Miami neutralize Minnesota's size advantage that still existed even with Kevin Love absent.

"Don't talk about it," James said. "Go do it. For me, when I say it, I go and make it happen."

Across the locker room, Wade, feet and knees in ice, stared down at the stat sheet.

"He had 14 rebounds?" Wade said. "That's the LeBron James I know."

But James, as versatile as he is, isn't a doctor. Neither is Wade. All he can do is take time off—a full week earlier this season, six days before he played Saturday—and continue his treatment. And then hope he gets lucky, which he didn't when the Timberwolves' Kevin Martin was in his area in that first quarter.

"I have no idea how it happened," Wade said. "He was in front of me. But it's a sensitive knee right there. It took a while to come back, but I was able to continue."

Dec 7, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Miami Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade (3) looks to get around Minnesota Timberwolves shooting guard Kevin Martin (23) in the second half at Target Center. The Heat won 103-82. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sp
Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

And his legs looked live. So live, that he didn't want to come out in the fourth quarter, trying to get his wind, his rhythm, after the long layoff. He said he wasn't concerned about lingering issues but didn't commit to a course of action for Sunday in Detroit.

Last week, he indicated that he would skip the second night of back-to-backs. Saturday's mishap would only seem to ensure that.

"I don't know," Wade said. "We'll see. Right now, I'm going to see how I feel, and try to be smart. I want to play so bad. But I understand as well what our trainers and coaches come up with. So I'll leave it in their hands right now. Sometimes you got to take it out of the player's hands."

And sometimes, a player's hands are meant to do something else.

Like mop, which Wade did in front of James' post-game interview.

James laughed, feeling much better than he did when Wade was lying on that same floor.