- Michael Wallace, ESPN Staff Writer
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MIAMI -- A day after sitting out of the Miami Heat's preseason opener to rest with sore legs, Dwyane Wade has no plans at this point to routinely skip regular season games to help preserve his health.
Wade practiced Tuesday with the team and then pushed through an extensive workout on the court with the coaching staff afterward that focused on his post game.
Working on his conditioning in a controlled practice environment is a higher priority for Wade than participating in preseason games. The star guard decided about an hour before the start of Monday's 92-87 victory against the Atlanta Hawks that he wouldn't play despite coach Erik Spoelstra listing him as a starter moments earlier.
Wade, who has battled chronic knee injuries the past two seasons, said he would continue to evaluate his conditioning on a day-to-day basis before deciding if he will play in any of the Heat's eight preseason games. Miami plays back-to-back games Thursday in Detroit and Friday against the Charlotte Bobcats in Kansas City.
“Obviously, you want to play in some games, get that rhythm, play with your teammates,” Wade said Tuesday. “But we've got seven of them (preseason games) left, so there's plenty of time. Right now, for me, (it’s important) to get more comfortable in here in practice, get more conditioning in here and it will take care of (itself) out on the court.”
Heat teammates and coaches have said that Wade is in the best shape they've seen in the three seasons he's played alongside LeBron James and Chris Bosh. But getting to that point has been a methodical process that started with a month of rest. Wade was slowed in the postseason by tendinitis in his surgically-repaired left knee and multiple bone bruises in his right knee.
Wade avoided surgery over the summer after the Heat defeated San Antonio in the Finals for their second consecutive championship. But Wade did require his knee to be drained during the Finals in June and received a shock-therapy procedure on his knees after the season.
Wade said he's still going through a rigorous training regimen that started late in the offseason when he began workouts with long-time personal trainer Tim Grover. Despite appearing lighter and physically fit, Wade said he remains a work in progress heading into the Oct. 29 regular season opener against the Chicago Bulls.
“I'm not where I want to be, but I'm better at this point this season than I was last year,” Wade said, referring to the 2012 offseason when he underwent left knee surgery. “I'm not ready for Game 1 (against Chicago). I'll work my way to get there, and we'll see how it goes game by game.”
Spoelsta believes there's been too much focus on Wade's knees heading into this season. He said Tuesday that the team will take a diligent approach with Wade, which is the same cautious approach the training staff has with other veterans who are dealing with minor ailments during training camp.
Forwards Michael Beasley (calf) and Udonis Haslem (offseason knee surgery) and centers Chris Andersen (foot) and Greg Oden (knee rehab) also missed Monday's game and will have their minutes monitored during practices and preseason games.
Wade, however, has been on the court during practice sessions that started last week in the Bahamas and has dominated stages of some of them with renewed lift in his legs, according to teammates.
“He knows his body better than any of us, and we'll trust him along with our conversations with the training staff -- also what I'm trying to plan big-picture,” Spoelstra said Tuesday. “I think you guys (media) are way over-analyzing it. It's preseason. It's being able to go through the practices. It's a heavy workload. And different guys will play in different games based on now they feel.”
The Heat don't appear to be considering taking an approach similar to how the San Antonio Spurs routinely give veterans Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili games off to rest. Spoelstra suggested it's way too soon to consider that with Wade, an 11-year veteran who will turn 32 in January.
“Dwyane came into camp very strong, very fit (and) we want to keep him that way,” Spoelstra said “That's through the challenges and the rigors of an 82-game season.”
But Wade's not consumed with any preservation process.
“It doesn't come into my mind,” Wade said. “I'll leave that up to our coaches. Obviously, it's a long season. But you don't want to go in thinking, 'I'm going to half-ass it' at all. We're not that much better than teams where we can preserve and sit guys. That's just not the way we do things. So you try your best, knock on wood, you don't suffer any injuries. You steel your body as much as possible, which I tried to do this summer, and hope for the best.”
1dSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information
5dMatt Walks, ESPN.com
3dDan Le Batard