MIAMI -- On his 30th birthday last January, Dwyane Wade wasn't overly thrilled being shut down due to injury. It turned out to be a good present.
It's time for the Miami Heat again to do what's best for Wade's even if he might not like it.
The shooting guard is hurting. After making progress in his recovery from knee surgery last July, Wade has been bothered in the past week by a sprained left foot and a jammed right thumb.
Wade missed Thursday's 98-93 win at Denver primarily due to the foot problem. It remains to be seen if he will sit out at Phoenix on Saturday, when the Heat conclude a six-game trip. But it would make sense if he did.
Wade early last season was bothered by a sprained right ankle. The Heat made the decision to shut him down for two weeks, the first game he missed being against San Antonio on Jan. 17, Wade's 30th birthday.
After Wade returned, he looked a lot better, averaging 24.9 points during a nine-game stretch. Wade later missed eight games in April due to nagging injuries and to be fresher for the playoffs.
Wade eventually was bothered in the playoffs by a bad left knee, which required surgery in July. But the Heat still won the championship, and Wade having gotten some extra rest in January and April had to have helped in the long run.
So why not give Wade some extended extra rest now? It's only November, so there's no reason to take any extra chances.
"He has a bunch of little minor injuries, so we'll continue to take this day by day," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Wade, who hurt his thumb last Sunday at Memphis and his foot Monday at Houston before aggravating it Wednesday at the Los Angeles Clippers. "He has been through it all before. It says a lot that he even wanted to be out there (Thursday). He's not 100 percent, but he'll never tell you that. Hopefully, he'll be able to get healthier. Thankfully, none of his injuries are serious.
They were enough for Wade to look like anything but an eight-time All-Star against the Clippers. He shot 2-of-10 for six points as his scoring average dropped to 16.9, the lowest since his rookie year of 2003-04.
"When you get one thing, it'll end up being about three different things," Wade said while shrugging off his injuries. "So you weather it. It will be all right."
It hasn't been all right for Wade since the Heat left on their trip Nov. 8 and he had a solid 20.2 scoring average. He missed the first game at Atlanta due to illness, and he's averaged just 11.0 points in the three games he has played on the trip.
"As he's recovering from his (knee) surgery in the offseason, he sprained his ankle and twisted his foot and jammed his finger," said Heat forward LeBron James. "So he's going to have to get healthy because I know that it's affecting his play on the floor and I know that he wants to play at the highest level. He's capable of doing that when he's healthy. His health right now, as his knee is getting better, he's banging up other things. But he's smart about it and he'll be back."
A smart decision would be shelving Wade at Phoenix, a game Heat should be able to win without him. After all, they are 16-3 the past two seasons in games Wade has missed.
If Wade is still not right, there's ample time for him to continue to rest in late November. After facing the Suns, the only remaining games in the month are all at home: Nov. 21 vs. Milwaukee, Nov. 24 against Cleveland and Nov. 29 vs. San Antonio.
Wade might not like it if Heat officials insist he sits out an extended period. But he would like it a lot more if any extra rest he gets during the regular season helps the Heat win another title next June.
Who's Hot: Forward Shane Battier has shot 11-of-16 from 3-point range the past three games. The highlight was a 6-of-7 showing for all of his 18 points at Denver. Battier also plays plenty of defense. He drew a key fourth-quarter charge against the Nuggets. For the season, Battier is shooting 23-of-50 on 3-pointers for 46.0 percent.
Who's Not: Ray Allen said teammate Norris Cole beat him regularly in shooting contests during training camp. Since the season started, the point guard hasn't shown in games the shooting form that impressed Allen. He's 15-of-45 on the season, including going 3-of-12 against the Nuggets. But credit Cole for still doing other things and for his perseverance. He filled in during the second half Thursday when starting point guard Mario Chalmers was out with a right triceps strain. In the final minute, Cole, after starting the game 2-of-11, was able to drill a pivotal 3-pointer.
Who's Not Shot: Some wondered if swingman Mike Miller was shot as a player after he averaged a meager 1.4 points in 10.0 minutes in his first seven games this season (he was benched for two). After all, Miller nearly retired last summer due to back problems. But Miller started Thursday in place of Wade, and responded with 12 points in 24 minutes while shooting 4-of-8 on 3-pointers. So there looks to be some shots left in a guy who's not shot.
1. The Heat love to talk about defense being the backbone of their team. Well, they've had some slipped disks lately. The Heat are giving up an uncharacteristic 100.2 points per game. But at least they were solid defensively in the win at high-scoring Denver. "We know our staple is defense every single night," James said. "That's going to give us the best opportunity to win, is to defend and rebound. I was glad to see we got back to that." While the defense has been shaky at times, expect the Heat eventually to correct it. After all, it's only November.
2. Rick Barry, one of the greatest free-throws shooters ever, has a standing offer to help James with his foul shooting. It might be a good time for the King to invite Barry into his court. James is 35-of-52 from the line this season for 67.3 percent. That's on pace to be a career-low, topping (or is that bottoming?) the 69.8 James shot in 2006-07.
3. Spoelstra always stands up for James, but he overdid it after James scored 32 of his 38 points in the second half last Monday in a 113-110 win at Houston. "How could anybody ever question him, looking back on it now, in big moments?" Spoelstra said. James came up big for the Heat in the 2012 NBA Finals, but even he'll admit he didn't perform well under pressure in a 2011 Finals loss to Dallas.
Quotes of the Week
"I am cursed. I just heard that it's my 20th in my career where I've had either one rebound or one assist to get."
--James, who has had a game this season in which he was one assist shy of a triple-double and one in which he was one rebound shy. James has 29 career regular-season triple-doubles but none this season or last.
"He looked like somebody I knew three years ago. Really quarterbacking the game. Coming off pick and rolls and getting his teammates opportunities."
--Wade, on how Houston guard James Harden reminds him of a younger Wade.
"He's the best player in the game but he does it in the most important moments. And that's what makes him special."
--Spoelstra, on James.
"This guy might be the most unselfish superstar we've ever had in the NBA."
--Analyst Charles Barkley, speaking on TNT about James.
6 Active NBA players to have won an NCAA and NBA title. The Heat have two in Battier (Duke 2001, Miami 2012) and Chalmers (Kansas
2008, Miami 2012). The others are Richard Hamilton (Connecticut 1999, Detroit 2004) and Nazr Mohammed (Kentucky 1996 and 1998 and San Antonio 2005) of Chicago, Boston's Jason Terry (Arizona 1997, Dallas 2011) and Denver's Corey Brewer (Florida 2006 and 2007 and Dallas 2011).
604 Heat games played by both Wade and forward Udonis Haslem to share the team record. If Wade sits out Saturday, Haslem can take over the lead himself.
2 Natives of Canada averaging less points this season than the 0.7 Heat center Joel Anthony has put up. San Antonio's Corey Joseph and Boston's Kris Joseph have played but not scored. Among the five natives of Canada in the NBA, Cleveland's Tristan Thompson leads in scoring with a 9.1 average while Orlando's Andrew Nicholson is at 5.9. (Note: Canadian legend Steve Nash actually was born in South Africa).
What's Next? - The Heat conclude what has been an up-and-down trip Saturday at Phoenix. But if Miami, which had ugly losses at Memphis and the Los Angeles Clippers, beats the Suns, it would be hard to complain too much about a 4-2 voyage. After flying home, the Heat don't play until Milwaukee visits AmericanAirlines Arena on Wednesday.
Tower of Power? - The Heat have looked recently like a Leaning Tower of Power. Even after the win at Houston, Spoelstra was displeased with his team's defense. But, ultimately, it comes down to record. With the Heat 7-3 after having played six of their first 10 games on the road, that's still Tower-of-Power worthy.
Chris Tomasson can bea reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson