The most important person to the Heat’s success this year may well be the players’ respective doctors. Dragic, J. Johnson, T. Johnson, McGruder, Waiters, Whiteside, Winslow, and others have all spent valuable playing time getting treated by the medical staff. Before the spate of injuries towards mid-season, my belief was that management would stay put with the roster the way it was because Spoelstra was beginning to get the right combinations in the lineup at the right times, and the team was doing well, heading towards a playoff spot.
However, that all changed with the injury to Tyler Johnson. It was just one final missing puzzle piece that I knew would put Spo over the edge and cause management to bring in a “name” by the February 8 trade deadline. Although the healthy players were capable of playing well, the team was likely to lose some of its chemistry with the loss of so many players to injury at various times through the first part of the season, and the toll would really be felt in the second half of the grueling season when players start hitting the wall.
That name, of course, turned out to be a real surprise, Dwyane Wade. My first reaction was that he is past his prime and probably won’t help much. But then when the idea sank in, I felt that he might just be the glue to put the team back together after a series of losses was casting doubt on the season and the team’s ability to reach the playoffs. No, Dwyane won’t score 30 points a game and lead the team to victory after victory, but he will solidify the team and give them a “go to” guy when they need one. He’s a proven commodity in that regard.
The other keys to having a successful season may well be how much of a contribution at both ends of the court the team can get from rookie Bam Adebayo, who has shown confidence, athleticism, poise and determination. Others who could help make up for the injury losses are Whiteside and Winslow. The latter has been playing well and continues to improve as his injuries heal, and his playing time improves. On the other hand, Whiteside is somewhat of an enigma. There are times when he is dominant at both ends of the court and other times when he seems ineffective against certain opposing big men.
And then there’s the question of whether he has the coach’s confidence. There have been several games where he has seen scant playing time in the fourth quarters, when games are usually on the line to win or lose. Early in the season, he was part of the mix in the final quarter, rather than part of the bench.
We’ll just have to wait and see whether the new combinations can jell in time for the Heat to win a spot in the playoffs.