NEW YORK (AP) -Dwyane Wade sees the Miami Heat struggling without him and wants to come back. But once he does, he wants to stay back.
So Wade missed another game Sunday when the Heat faced the New York Knicks, preferring to avoid having to go in and out of the lineup like Phoenix star Amare Stoudemire did after returning from his knee surgery.
``It's been tough but I've been smart with myself,'' Wade said. ``The day I got cleared my rookie year, I would have came back that day. I've been smart about it but of course I want to be out there. It's what I love to do.''
Wade was cleared Nov. 2 to return from his offseason left knee and left shoulder surgeries, but said he knew then he wouldn't be back in time for Sunday's game. Though the Heat came into New York with an 0-5 record, neither Wade nor coach Pat Riley are interested in speeding up his timetable.
``It's his call,'' Riley said. ``The doctors cleared him, and when Dwyane feels like he can really perform, I think at a level where he can help the team. I think he has to help the team and I don't think he cares whether he starts or comes off or how many minutes he's going to play or anything like that. He just wants to be productive.''
The Heat desperately need that. They were averaging a league-worst 86.4 points entering Sunday's play, a number that would surely go up once Wade returns. He scored 27.4 points per game last season.
``Miami, they change, the night Dwyane Wade comes back they become a contender,'' Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy, the former Heat coach, said Friday night. ``I coached the guy, I know what he's all about and they're just struggling without him.
``You take Dirk Nowitzki off the Mavericks, you take Kobe Bryant off the Lakers, you take Steve Nash off the Suns, you go down the list and those teams are going to struggle. So to me Miami's not struggling. They're simply without one of the absolutely elite players in the league and the night he comes back everything changes for them.''
Wade said stiffness in the knee is his main concern. He worked out Sunday after shootaround, but is still waiting to see his normal explosiveness return on a consistent basis before coming back.
``I'm going hard and I'm seeing how I feel every day,'' he said. ``Sooner or later, if I continue to feel good I will take the chance.''
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