Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Miami Heat Index [Print without images]

Saturday, January 14, 2012
Wade, Heat limp out of Denver

By Brian Windhorst

DENVER -- On Tuesday, Dwyane Wade turns 30, and he’s probably never felt older.

The Miami Heat have themselves some issues right now after dropping their third straight game Friday night, 117-104 to the Denver Nuggets. But perhaps none is more pressing than Wade’s mounting injury woes, which are creating a drag on the whole team.

For their part, the Nuggets were sensational as they played with confidence on their home floor and showed off their overall depth. They took apart the Heat’s defense, shooting 55 percent, and outran them all night.

It turned out to be a showcase game for emerging Denver star Ty Lawson, who had 24 points and nine assists. More than that, he completely controlled the tempo of the game in the second half as the Nuggets built a 19-point lead. With the Nuggets 8-4 and playing team-oriented and spirited basketball, there’s reason to think Lawson is constructing an All-Star case for himself.

For the Heat, who haven’t won in Denver in 10 years, the defeat wasn’t as much of a concern as Wade suffering another injury. During the fourth quarter, he rolled his right ankle and limped to the locker room, adding another line to his growing injury report.

After getting off to a sizzling start to the season, the Heat haven’t been the same since Wade started having injury issues. Since he had to shut himself down with a sore left foot nearly two weeks ago, the Heat are just 3-3 and have lost the edge with which they started the season.

Wade is still dealing with that foot injury, and over the past three days, he has suffered a strained calf and now the sprained ankle, which caused so much initial pain that Wade thought he’d broken it. X-rays eliminated those fears but not his concerns about how much time he’s going to have to spend in the training room.

He spent more than six hours getting treatment Thursday, tweeting out a picture of himself spending his evening in an ice bath. He skipped the Heat’s Friday shootaround to get extra rest and then got more treatment during the day just so he could suit up against the Nuggets.

“I’ve been here before,” Wade said. “The only thing you can do is get back on the court whenever you can. It is always frustrating when you can’t play to your full capability.”

With his feet and ankles numb from ice, Wade struggled to put a compression sleeve on his leg to help reduce swelling on the long flight back to Miami following the game. With this frantic shortened season that is already taxing teams across the league while still in its infant stages, it was a concerning sight for his teammates.

Since Wade tweaked his foot in a game in Charlotte last month, his normal production has fallen off a cliff. He’s averaging just 18 points and shooting just 41 percent in those games after he opened the season averaging 25 points on 53 percent shooting in his first two games. He came into the season in incredible shape, with his weight down and his body fat checking in at an eye-popping 3.5 percent, all signs pointing toward him piecing together an amazing start. He looked like he was well on his way until the injury bug started.

Without Wade producing at his normal level, the Heat have suffered at both ends of the floor. In addition to their efficiency in the half court dipping, their movement on defense has slowed and teams are beating them with ball movement. Overall, their margin for error, which once looked as wide as a football field during their strong start, has narrowed considerably.

“He’s probably frustrated that hasn’t been able to have his explosiveness,” LeBron James said. “We haven’t seen his Euro step at all this year because that foot is where he steps off of and he’s kind of timid to even use it. A lot of his moves he hasn’t been able to use this year because he’s afraid he’s going to reinjure his foot.”

Now Wade is going to be dealing with an ankle injury, and his status in the short term is unsure. All the Heat have next is home games with the San Antonio Spurs, the Los Angeles Lakers and the upstart Philadelphia 76ers in the next week.

Because of his style, Wade has been playing with various maladies for much of his career. There are plenty of players across the league who are hurt worse than he is at the moment as well. As he limped to the bus Friday night, he tried to keep that in perspective, but it doesn’t change the fact that the Heat seem to be limping right along with him.

“It’s always frustrating, but that is part of sports,” Wade said. “I look at it, knock on wood, and say it could be worse.”