Wade decides to return to Heat for playoff run

By The Associated Press

MIAMI – Dwyane Wade’s dislocated left shoulder is so fragile there’s a risk of aggravating the injury when he sleeps.

But come April, Wade figures he might be up to the rigors of the NBA playoffs. The All-Star guard said Monday he has decided to delay surgery and rehabilitate his shoulder with the goal of returning to help the Miami Heat defend their league title.

“It could have been easy for me just to shut it down,” Wade said at a news conference. “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.”

Wade’s decision was good news for the injury-plagued Heat, who entered Monday night’s game against Atlanta at 29-29. But even with rest and therapy, there’s no guarantee Wade can return this season.

“The fact there’s a possibility would give us hope,” coach Pat Riley said. “He’s a pretty good player. He probably would be a pretty good player one-armed.”

The Heat went into Monday’s game 4-8 this season without Wade, but 3-2 since he was hurt Feb. 21 in a collision with Houston’s Shane Battier. At the time, he was the league’s third-leading scorer, averaging 28.8 points.

Wade underwent extensive tests and received a second opinion from specialist Dr. James Andrews before deciding he would try to return.

Wade disclosed Monday that his injury included a torn labrum. He was without a sling at the news conference but still wears one when he sleeps to keep the shoulder stable.

The decision to attempt a comeback this season was difficult, Wade said, even though Andrews and team physician Dr. Harlan Selesnick supported the idea. Wade said he was told he can’t further damage his shoulder by playing, although another dislocation is possible.

“The main thing I can do is feel that same pain again. That’s one thing I don’t want to feel,” he said with a smile.

Wade said he has received encouragement from teammate Eddie Jones, who missed 15 games with a dislocated left shoulder and torn labrum in March 2001. Jones returned late in the regular season and played in three playoff games before undergoing offseason surgery.

Jones talked to Wade last week about what to expect during the rehab process.

“You’re going to get a workout, a big-time workout,” Jones said. “There’s going to be days when you don’t want to do it. But you’ve got to stay on top of it. … I think he can get through it. He’s a tough guy.”

If therapy goes well, Wade said, he might be able to return for the last couple of regular-season games before the playoffs start April 21, the two-month anniversary of his injury. Even if he does come back, he’s still expected to have surgery after the season, with the recovery time estimated at four to six months.

That means the delay in surgery could force Wade to miss the start of next season. The Heat would rather have him for this year’s playoffs, but Riley said the organization didn’t try to influence Wade’s decision.

“He’s a warrior. He’s a soldier. And these are his guys,” Riley said. “The doctors are world-renowned, and 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.”

Riley said he’s confident Wade can alter his slashing, acrobatic playing style as necessary to protect his shoulder.

“He has a tremendous amount of skill and awareness and smarts,” Riley said. “Whatever adjustment would have to be made, I think he would make the adjustment and still be pretty effective.”

Heat players learned of Wade’s decision Monday morning, and Jones said the group was, not surprisingly, thrilled.

“We knew he probably would come back, because he’s a tough kid,” Jones said. “He’s not going to just give up on the season, especially if he can’t do any more damage to the joint.”