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Dwyane Wade returns to struggling Heat

Tim Reynolds
Associated Press
Vail, CO Colorado
Alan Diaz/APMiami Heat's Dwyane Wade (3) goes to the basket in the first quarter in Miami, Wednesday.
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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, when the Heat faced the Seattle SuperSonics.

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 before the game. “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 with a 1-6 record and are averaging an NBA-worst 83.3 points.

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 action.”

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 Boston.

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.


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