LeBron James Admits Dwyane Wade's Knee Issues Are 'Tough' on Miami Heat

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 21, 2014

USA Today

The Miami Heat aren't keeping pace with the Indiana Pacers in the race for the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed, and some of the blame can be handed out to a certain set of joints. 

Dwyane Wade's knees have held him to only 30 of Miami's first 41 games, and while he's been effective for the most part, it's still taken its toll on the defending champions. 

"It's tough, it's tough," LeBron James told ESPN.com's Michael Wallace. "And guys think it's easy, but it's tough."

The quote came after Wade was ruled out of his third consecutive game, this time a Jan. 21 contest against the Boston Celtics, and it's not like the five games prior had been anything special.

Miami's 2-guard sat out against the Brooklyn Nets, then he averaged eight points, four rebounds and 3.5 assists per contest over a two-game stretch. After that, he missed a victory over the Charlotte Bobcats and a surprising loss to the Atlanta Hawks

When he's played, he typically hasn't struggled all that much. As NBC Sports' Kurt Helin wrote, "He deserves to be an All-Star (you fans are voting him in as a starter)."

MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 7: Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat looks on against the New Orleans Pelicans at the American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida on Jan. 7, 2014. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this
Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

After all, Wade is shooting a career-best 54 percent from the field and compensating for his limitations with even more cerebral play than he's exhibited at any other stage in his career. 

But the in-and-out role hasn't been great for Miami.

Here's where we let LeBron take it away: 

I can say from a rhythm standpoint, it's kind of hurt us. And we're a team that's built on rhythm, built on chemistry, and we've had so many lineup changes, so many different guys in and out with injuries that it's kind of hurt our performance. We don't like to use it as a crutch or as an excuse.

The reigning MVP isn't making this up. 

Miami is indeed a team built on chemistry. It took Wade accepting his "Robin" role for the Heat to live up to their championship potential, and the excellent ball movement and the knack for making difficult plays look far too easy only come with terrific rhythm. 

But it's also important to remember that even with Wade's knees acting up, Miami still sits pretty at No. 2 in the East.

Getting him healthy for the inevitable Eastern Conference Finals clash with Indiana is more important than anything else, so the Heat will continue fighting chemistry issues rather than risk a bigger setback. If you're a fan of the defending champions, it's better to hear about the All-Star 2-guard sitting out than to watch as he goes down with a more serious injury.