Dwyane Wade’s minutes per game have decreased in each of the last four seasons, and he’s missed a combined 102 since the start of the 2011-12 season. Those facts are hardly surprising for a 14-year veteran who will turn 35 before this year’s All-Star break, and one who has dealt with knee injuries much of his career and has logged nearly 37,000 minutes between the regular season and postseason.
Wade still has plenty left in the tank, as witnessed by his impressive performance in last year’s postseason and the fact that he played in 74 regular-season games, the most since 2010 when LeBron James and Chris Bosh first joined him in Miami. The Bulls showed this summer they believe Wade has something to offer when they gave him a two-year, $47.5 million deal to return home.
Wade averaged 22.3 minutes per game in six preseason games, playing between 24 and 27 minutes in the five games after he logged 12 minutes in the preseason opener. He also sat the second of a back-to-back in Milwaukee. It’ll be up to Wade, head coach Fred Hoiberg and the coaching staff to come up with a plan to keep Wade as fresh as possible over the course of the next five-plus months while also allowing putting the Bulls in the best position to win each night.
“(Hoiberg) hasn’t said, ‘You’re going to play 30 minutes exactly,’” Wade said at Thursday’s shootaround. “A lot of it is just, looking at preseason, I think I’m going to be around 30-32 minutes just by the substitution patterns that (Hoiberg) is thinking about for me. I’m good with it. We haven’t had a (direct) conversation, but we’re both cool with it.”
Wade said that those substitution patterns will be more important than the total number of minutes he logs each night. He joked that in a perfect world the Bulls would have a big enough lead where he could sit the entire fourth quarter. How the game plays out will dictate the number of minutes Wade plays, but both he and Hoiberg will do their best to keep Wade fresh by timing when he subs out and returns to the game over a 48-minute span.
“I’m not a kind of guy that wants to stay out for 10-12 minutes on the clock because I’m gonna get a little stiff. I’m also not a kind of guy that wants to go for 12 minutes straight, so I think (Hoiberg) is learning me, and we stay in constant communication about when I’ve got a little break and I’m ready to go again.
“I don’t need to be out there the whole quarter neither. Take me out when you need to, I’ll get a break and I’m ready to go again. So it’s all about figuring it out and we’re doing a good job of it.”
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When the Heat got off to a 15-9 start last season Wade played fewer than 30 minutes in 11 of the 23 games he appeared in, and five of the first eight contests to begin the year. So while he may take some time to get his legs underneath him, Hoiberg noted that on multiple occasions in the preseason Wade asked to return to the game in the second half to build up a rhythm for the regular season.
“A lot of it will depend on how he’s feeling. We have an idea about where we want him with his minutes, we’ve talked about that with him,” Hoiberg said. “But if he’s feeling great, maybe one game he’s not feeling so good, we’ll go away from it. But we’ve got an idea of where we want him with his minutes and we’ll try to stick to it.”
Wade said he doesn’t have a particular goal in mind for the number of games he’d like to play this season. But after 13 years in the league he has found the best way for him to attack the game each night while also keeping an eye toward the bigger picture, when the Bulls will need him down the stretch in April and potentially into the postseason.
“I want to take advantage of every moment and opportunity as I can and help get my team a chance to win,” he said. “So it’s my job to try to take care of my body away from the game of basketball, and then when I’m on the court I pray and knock on wood that I don’t get injured and can stay out there.”