As the Miami Heat struggled to defeat the Indiana Pacers in the 2013 NBA Eastern Conference Finals, we were left to wonder what had become of Dwyane Wade. Once a high flying and explosive superstar, Wade seemed be a mere shell of himself. With each grimace and every limp down the court, it had appeared that the glory days of Wade were behind him. Hobbled and plagued by reoccurring knee injuries, he simply shrunk into the shadow of LeBron James.
With the energy and hype of the Finals came the resurgence of “Flash”. The depleted Wade looked like the Wade of the 2006 championship team, his offensive skill unmatched and his defensive prowess unseen. He grabbed rebounds, blocked shots, dropped dimes and scored at will. Wade was not ready to disappear behind the stage curtain that was King James.
If there is one thing Miami and Erik Spoelstra can learn from last season, it is when to rest your stars. The NBA season is a long and grueling 82 game schedule. Add the playoffs and players could face as many as 110 games. At 31, Wade and his knees are not getting any younger. The Heat easily won the East by 12 games, and Spoelstra had more than enough insurance to rest his stars.
It is never easy for a star to sit out a game. True players yearn to be on the court every waking minute, but that is why there is a head coach to make executive decisions. Miami is the favorite of the East yet again, and Spoelstra should use every opportunity to rest Wade. Rest is the best medicine for Wade, who is expected to be back at 100 percent for the start of this season.
Wade underwent OssaTron shock treatment on both knees over the summer. His knees have plagued the Heat guard over the last two seasons and all but crippled him this past postseason. The best case scenario for Miami is to start the season strong, allowing plenty of time before the playoffs for Spoelstra to rest Wade.
It is Spoelstra’s obligation and duty to know when to rest and when to play Wade. Miami has proved that James and Chris Bosh are more than enough to win during the regular season, but the Heat and the “Big 3″ will need to be firing on all cylinders come the playoffs.
If Wade’s knees become a problem entering the playoffs, Spoelstra may even have the option to rest “Flash” for the first round. The Milwaukee Bucks proved to be no match as Miami swept them in the first round this past April. It can be hard for a coach to say no to a high paid superstar, but Wade’s health rests in the hands of Spoelstra’s better judgement.
Wade’s knees are a big unknown and it is a bigger unknown if his knees will hold up. The Heat cannot afford to have a grimacing, limping Wade come the postseason. Spoelstra will need to manage Wade carefully and watch him closely because no Wade all but crushes Miami’s quest for a third straight ring.