MIAMI -- Dwyane Wade is finally back.
Miami's All-Star guard, recovered from offseason shoulder and
knee surgeries, played for the first time this
season Wednesday night, but the Heat still lost, 104-95 to the previously winless Seattle SuperSonics.
Wade scored 15 points in 25 minutes on 5-for-9 shooting for Miami (1-7), which is 0-4 at home for the second time in franchise history.
Wade entered the game with 4:49 left in the first quarter,
replacing Penny Hardaway. His home crowd began shouting as soon as
Wade removed his warm-ups, and stood and gave a long cheer when he
took the floor.
"We have been as diligent and as careful, and he has been as
diligent and as careful, as I think anybody could be with your
primary asset," Heat coach Pat Riley said. "This isn't something
that we haven't really thought long and hard about ... but there's
got to be a time when you go out there."
Wade's return couldn't come at a better time for the Heat, who
entered the night averaging an NBA-worst
But having Wade -- who averaged a career-high 27.4 points last
season -- is sure to help in both of those categories.
"It isn't going to be one man that's going to turn this
around," Riley said, echoing a line Wade has used in recent days.
"He will change the game for us, as he progresses in live
Wade entered the court 23 minutes before tip-off for warmups,
moments after sharing a quick hug with Shaquille O'Neal in the
hallway leading from the Heat locker room. Wade could rejoin the
starting lineup as early as Friday night when the Heat visit
Seattle coach P.J. Carlesimo said Miami "instantly" gets
better with Wade, but he also cautioned that he didn't expect to
see the 2006 NBA finals MVP back in top form right away.
"When you miss as much time as he missed, even as great as he
his, I don't see him coming back and not missing a beat,"
Carlesimo said before Wednesday's game. "But when he comes back, I
expect them to be what they have been, which is one of the best
teams in the East."
Wade had surgery on his left shoulder and left knee May 15, and
was told by doctors that the rehabilitation process would last six
months. Thursday is the six-month anniversary of those procedures.
The shoulder -- which was dislocated in February -- no longer
necessarily concerns Wade, who said earlier this month that it's
stronger than his right one.
But the knee was Wade's primary source of worry over the past
couple weeks. He had surgery to relieve the condition commonly
called "jumper's knee" and said he didn't want to return to the
Heat lineup until he was convinced that the joint could hold up to
the rigors of NBA life.
Team doctors cleared him for full-contact practice earlier this
month and Wade began those workouts Nov. 5, although he was able to
participate in certain on-court drills since training camp began
about a month earlier.