Shaquille O’Neal won’t have to hold up the struggling Miami Heat on his own, after all. Dwayne Wade announced on Monday that he will delay surgery on his dislocated left shoulder until after additional rehabilitation, with the goal of returning for a possible playoff run.
“My decision for the next two to three weeks is to rehab with the possibility of coming back, but with no guarantee,” Wade said. “I’ll find out after therapy and rehab how my body responds to things.”
Wade, who was hurt two weeks ago at Houston, has gone extensive tests and received a second opinion from specialist Dr. James Andrews, before coming to his decision to stick it out.
The Heat are currently sitting with a 30-29 record (4-2 since Wade injured his shoulder), and are in 6th place in the NBA Eastern Conference. Were the playoffs to start today, Miami would be the 6th seed, but are only three games ahead of the 9th place team, which would leave Miami out of the playoffs.
This decision has to please Heat coach Pat Riley, who has seen his team, the defending NBA champions, struggle all season. “The fact there’s a possibility would give us hope,” he said. “He’s a pretty good player. He probably would be a pretty good player one-armed.”
In his press conference today, Wade said the decision return this season was a difficult one, although both doctors he spoke to support his decision. Although he cannot do additional damage to the shoulder by playing, another dislocation is always a possibility.
“The main thing I can do is feel that same pain again,” he said. “That’s one thing I don’t want to feel. It could have been easy for me just to shut it down. You don’t know if you’re going to be able to attack the same way and dive on the floor the same way. I’ll find out after therapy and rehab how my body responds to things.”
The Heat allowed Wade to make his own decision on his health and eventual return. “The doctors are world-renowned,” said Riley. “They said he can go forward this way. This is what you do when you’re a defending champion. He has made the decision to try to rehab it and hopefully help the team, and he should be admired for that.”
As for Wade’s style of play, which often leaves him splayed out on the floor after taking at hit? “He has a tremendous amount of skill and awareness and smarts,” said Riley. “Whatever adjustment would have to be made, I think he would make the adjustment and still be pretty effective.”
Even if Wade returns in time for the beginning of the playoffs on April 21, he would still undergo surgery in the off season to repair the damage to his shoulder.