- Michael Wallace, ESPN Staff Writer
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MIAMI -- Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade believes his surgically repaired left knee is progressing ahead of schedule and plans to play in his third consecutive preseason game Thursday against the Detroit Pistons.
Wade said Tuesday his knee responded well to his first game action and extended plane travel during the Heat's seven-day trip to China last week. Wade also participated in Tuesday's full practice and scrimmage sessions in the team's first workout since returning from the trip.
After sitting out of the Heat's Oct. 7 preseason opener against Atlanta, Wade started both exhibition games against the Los Angeles Clippers. He played more than 23 minutes in Wednesday's win against the Clippers and then played a little more than eight minutes in Sunday's loss.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Tuesday that Wade wasn't expected to play in both games in China amid the team's cautious approach with his rehabilitation, but was encouraged by the way the 10-year veteran responded.
"I feel ahead of schedule," Wade said. "If I continue to keep progressing, I'm going to try to play as much as possible but try to be smart as well. I want to play Thursday, get back out there and continue to get my legs under me ... so I can be ready for opening night."
The Heat play their season and home opener Oct. 30 against Boston. That's the game Wade had targeted to be ready for when the Heat started training camp Sept. 29.
Wade had arthroscopic surgery July 9 after playing through pain in the knee during the Heat's playoff run to an NBA title last season. Initially, Wade wasn't certain how many preseason games he would play in, but he grew more optimistic after the first week of training camp.
"He's ahead of schedule, and we want to keep him that way," Spoelstra said. "We're not trying to rush this or fast-track it. We want it to go at a healthy rate. Last week was very positive. He was able to go every single day and then play in both games. It was the most productive week he's had. Today, he didn't miss a turn in practice. He's getting his timing back. Those are good signs."
Wade played well defensively against the Clippers but was rusty on offense. He shot 5-of-16 from the field but totaled 5 assists, 5 rebounds, 4 steals and 2 blocks in the two games. If Wade plays Thursday against the Pistons, there's a good chance he could sit out of Saturday's home preseason game against San Antonio.
Heat forward LeBron James said he wasn't surprised that Wade showed signs of his usual athletic play in spurts during the games in China.
"It was good to see him get out there and play like he did, getting dunks, driving baseline and making spin moves, his patent moves," James said. "It's good to see that already with him coming off knee surgery."
Although Wade shows no signs of discomfort or fatigue in his legs, he said he hasn't completely emerged from the methodical rehabilitation process. He continues to work with specialists before and after practices for therapy and extensive conditioning workouts.
"I'm still doing both (rehab and maintenance)," said Wade, 30, who has had two surgeries on the knee since 2007. "I'm just trying to do my part. Every day it consists of something different with me and the coaching staff. I don't want no one to feel I haven't done my job of making sure that I took care of my knee."
Spoelstra said Wade is still considered "day to day" and wouldn't specify how the team would balance his work with rest over the final five preseason games.
"We don't want to get ahead of ourselves," Spoelstra said. "Each day we'll evaluate it. If his knee feels differently tomorrow, we'll back off it. He's got plenty of time."
Wade admitted he did have to play catch-up once camp started because he was unable to work out as much as he wanted during the final weeks of the offseason. With two weeks left before the season opener, Wade wants to increase his workload if his body continues to cooperate.
"I can't count on two hands how many times I worked out over the summer consistently," Wade said. "So for coming into camp, trying to work my way into it, yeah, I'm ahead of schedule. So with two weeks left (before the season), I need those two weeks to get my legs under me."
4dSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann