According to ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst, they drew a reaction on the opposite end of the emotional spectrum from some of the players around him:
Wade's teammates sometimes would find out their All-Star shooting guard was out a day before the game, sometimes an hour before the game, sometimes he was scratched during pregame warm-ups. Maybe he'd miss one game. Maybe two. Maybe two weeks.
Privately, it occasionally frustrated other Heat players. The lack of information and their competitive spirit as they fought for playoff seeding clouded the Heat's ongoing but hard-to-quantify Wade 'maintenance program.'
Wade missed 28 games in total, but there was a constant mystery surrounding his status. Daily discussions between coach Erik Spoelstra and trainer Jay Sabol determined whether the 32-year-old would make an appearance on any given night.
Miami put this plan in place for a reason. Wade's knee troubles date back to his college days, and they've seemed to surface with more regularity since he reached the wrong side of 30. He's played just 172 of a possible 230 regular-season games over the last three years.
Still, that justification for having the plan didn't make the process any easier. When Wade was gone, his teammates were left to fill the void of the 19.0-points-per-game scorer, often with little to no advanced notice.
"With some of the guys being in and out, and with the concern with D-Wade, it's been tough on all of us trying to fill that," LeBron James said in January, via ESPN.com's Michael Wallace. "We've just got to be able to do a little bit more consistently, and go in with the mindset sometimes that he's not playing instead of [he is] playing."
Wallace went on to discuss what Wade's health issues might mean for the future:
Wade's health is one of the biggest questions facing the Heat in their quest to become the fourth franchise in NBA history to win three consecutive titles. It's also an issue that could impact how Miami addresses its roster moving into the future. Wade, 32, could opt out of his contract after the season and test free agency or look for a long-term contract from the Heat.
However, the good news for Miami (for now, at least) is that those frustrations seem to be left in the past. It's hard to label the program anything but a success given how well Wade has performed of late (22.6 points on 57.8 percent shooting over his last five games).
Not only are the raw numbers impressive, but so too is the way he's gone about compiling those statistics. He's aggressively attacked the basket, flashing the explosiveness some feared he had permanently lost to the injury bug.
Miami needed all 23 of his points, 10 of which came in the fourth quarter, during its 87-83 win over the Indiana Pacers Tuesday night. It also needed his lockdown defense on Indiana Pacers All-Star swingman Paul George, who managed just 14 points on 4-of-16 shooting from the field.
Wade struggled mightily in last year's playoffs, averaging only 14.2 points on 44.4 percent shooting over his first 18 games. His health was a constant question mark and seemed to be a constant threat to Miami's championship plans.
Those same question marks hung over the Heat's regular season, but this team's true tests don't start before the playoffs. As frustrating as those 82 games might have been, the program's purpose was to reach this point. Wade is active and productive, providing Miami necessary lifts to lead it toward its ultimate goal.
One bad break could change things in a hurry, but for now, the plan seems to have done its job.
"This was the plan, I just want to continue it," Wade said, via Windhorst. "I just want to continue to keep going, continue to keep getting better. There's a lot of basketball left, but I feel good."
After months of frustrations, I'd think his teammates are feeling pretty good, too.
Statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.
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