Winderman: Expect more Heat “injuries” as they rest for playoffs

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In the ego-driven, pride-centric world of the NBA, you’re never going to hear an athlete say, “Man, I’m tired, I’m sitting this one out.”

So, apparently, he instead has a bruised knee.

Yet keep an eye on that left knee of Dwyane Wade, and don’t be surprised if it’s suddenly healed by the time the Heat host the Thunder on Wednesday night.

Oh, some teams will just come out and say it, especially a don’t-give-a-rat’s-butt coach like Gregg Popovich, who simply can list Tim Duncan as “DNP-old.”

But that’s the exception.

So as we continue to work through the Sunday game tape of Heat-Celtics trying to find the moment when Wade bruised that left knee, we also appreciate the Heat’s move to sit Wade on Tuesday night against the 76ers, a team the Heat now have beaten 11 consecutive times during the regular season (as well as 4-1 during the opening round of last season’s playoffs).

For all the barking Doug Collins did during that game about Erik Spoelstra standing on the court — at one point threatening to do the same so the teams could play six on six —  Spoelstra had the courtesy to not just come out and say his team knew it could beat the 76ers without Wade. Because it always does.

Based on the Heat’s absurd April, one that includes 16 games in 26 days, including an illogical run of four home games in five nights later in the month, expect a few more injuries to pop up among the regulars.

And good for them, if not the ticket-buying public.

Oh, Wade’s left knee most assuredly is sore, as is the right one, as is just about everything on a body that continually hurtles into the lane.

But the reality is the Heat close the schedule with consecutive road games, don’t arrive back in South Florida until the early hours of April 27 and could open the playoffs in the afternoon on April 28.

So “bruised left knee”? Fine.

“Dead legs”? Fine as well.

Or an organization with the bigger picture in mind, picking and choosing its spots through a closing minefield? Smart, very smart.

Wade’s knee may yet keep him out Wednesday against the Thunder. But we’re figuring that also would leave Wade with a bruised ego in the wake of the Heat’s recent blowout loss in Oklahoma City, and that’s something that almost assuredly should have him back on the court.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at @IraHeatBeat.

John Wall scores 37 as Wizards down LeBron James, Cavs 127-115

Associated Press
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CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.

Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.

James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.

Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.

Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”

Associated Press
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Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.

After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”

Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.

Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.

This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.

One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.

 

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.