Dwyane Wade returns for Heat

ATLANTA -- Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade returned from a nine-game injury absence to start Saturday night's game against the Atlanta Hawks.

Wade was cleared by the team's training staff after completing an extensive workout on the Philips Arena court about two hours before the start of the game. Wade, who has been out since March 26 with a strained left hamstring, had also gone through three strenuous workouts throughout the day on Friday before the Heat's 98-86 home win against Indiana.

"I'm going to give it a go today," Wade said shortly before Saturday's game. "That's the plan. The first thing was to get comfortable with it. You never know how severe it is until you try to strengthen it. Now, it's just about getting comfortable and pushing it to see where you're at."

Wade acknowledged that the hamstring injury was more severe than he or the team initially thought when he sustained the injury in the final two minutes of the loss in Indiana three weeks ago. On two occasions in recent days, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Wade was on the verge of returning, but the team ultimately held him out as a further precaution.

The Heat have three games remaining in the regular season and entered Saturday with a half-game lead over the Pacers for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Wade said he will play limited minutes, but looked forward to getting back on the court after his longest absence of the season.

"As human beings, we don't really have patience," Wade said. "Especially as you get to this part of the season. You really start to gear up for the playoffs. I've tried to stay in tune with the team, in tune with what we're doing. I had to understand that the time would come. We'll see how it does."

Wade has averaged 19.2 points, 4.8 assists and 4.6 rebounds in 51 games this season. He has missed 28 games overall, with most of the absences the result of knee soreness. He has also missed time with an Achilles strain.