- Michael Wallace, ESPN Staff Writer
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So what took him so long to divulge his discomfort?
“It just never came up,” James said of his back after Friday's practice. “If it doesn't come up, I don't talk about it. For me, I don't really talk about injuries much, and I've had my fair share. That's just the way it is. If I'm OK to play and I'm out on the court, then I don't have an excuse.”
James said he plans to continue playing through the back soreness, and expects to be in the lineup for Saturday's game against the Boston Celtics. But if the pain gets much worse, he'll reluctantly consider sitting out to rest.
Aside from a few stretches, when he talked about being dissatisfied with his general conditioning level entering the season, James' performance hasn't been too affected. He scored a season-high 35 points to go with 8 rebounds and 8 assists during Tuesday's win in Toronto, and added 18 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds in Thursday's victory at home against the Los Angeles Clippers.
One of the only signs that James hasn't necessarily been on top of his game has been the 20 turnovers he's had in the past five games. James said Friday he's had to adjust his play based on how sore his back is entering each game.
“Obviously, I'm not as explosive as I am when I'm not hurting,” James said. “That takes away from it, so I have to switch my game up and do some other things.”
Heat guard Ray Allen said many people don't realize what professional athletes have to deal with on a daily basis just to fight though nagging aches and pains to play the game.
“It is difficult,” said Allen, who is in his 18th NBA season. “It's one of those things that, in the beginning it's a hurdle that you have to get over. Most of us get out of the bed and you feel that your back is tight. You have to find ways to navigate around it. Sometimes it can be chronic. It can be a pain in the butt. Really a pain in the back, though.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and the training staff have erred on the side of caution in dealing with a veteran-laden team. For instance, Dwyane Wade sat out of the second game of a back-to-back set last week after he experienced minor soreness in his troublesome knees. Instead of traveling to Toronto earlier this week, center Greg Oden remained in Miami to limit any potential pressure on his knees from two long flights and a quick turnaround.
“Obviously, we're not going to compare ourselves to football, but we play a very physical sport,” Wade said Friday. “Once training camp starts, once you get through your first game, you're never 100 percent again. People can take different pain tolerance, different pain levels. LeBron James' back has been sore for a while. He's a special player. But you do want certain things to not linger.”
As Wade continues to find comfort with his own game while managing knee soreness, he admitted Friday that he's about “75 percent” toward his peak conditioning form.
Wade's assessment came a day after he finished with a season-high 29 points, 7 assists and 4 rebounds in the Heat's 102-97 win against the Clippers. Wade has scored at least 20 points in four straight games since sitting out of a stunning Oct. 30 loss to Philadelphia.
“Obviously, years ago, when I had it going, I would have tried to keep it going,” Wade said. “You have to understand on this team, there are so many other guys who are capable. So you have to keep your teammates happy, no matter what. A night like last night, you feel like, when things are going it, it's a 40-point night. But on this team, it's not about that. It's about everyone feeling they're involved.”
In response to critics who believe his game is on the decline, Wade suggested those projections are premature.
“Every time I go on the court, especially healthy, I'm one of the best to play the game,” Wade said. “I know that. I'm not afraid to say that. I've put in some work. I'm in Year 11. Until I walk away, I'll continue to be effective. I'm just trying to stay as healthy as possible. I may never be 100 percent again. If I can be about 80 percent, I'm good to go.”
Although James (back spasms) said he plans to play Saturday against Boston, Spoelstra said the Heat star will be re-evaluated throughout the day to determine if he'll play. There were no other injury concerns revealed Friday.
Did you know?
Heat guard Mario Chalmers was fined $15,000 by the league on Friday for his hit on Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin during Thursday's game. Chalmers extended his forearm into Griffin's neck with 8:05 left in the third quarter of the Heat's 102-97 victory. Chalmers was called for a common foul during the game, but the league upgraded the infraction to a flagrant foul 2.
Quote of the day
“It's my whole back. My neck and my back.” -- LeBron James, jokingly mimicking Ezal's character from the movie "Friday," when asked Friday the exact location of his back pain.
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