As Miami Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr. prepares for at least a six-week absence due to two bone bruises in his right knee, he can look no further than veteran 37-year-old teammate Dwyane Wade on how to deal with the injury.
Wade, in his 16th and final season, has had a history with bone bruises, battling through it during Miami’s 2013 run to the Heat’s third title.
“Just take his time to get back,” Wade said at Heat practice on Tuesday ahead of Wednesday night’s home game against the Chicago Bulls. “That’s something you don’t want to come back too soon, and you have to deal with it because it takes bone bruises a while to heal. For you to be healthy and do the things you want to do on the court, you want to make sure that you’re fully healthy.”
Of course, Wade didn’t have the same luxury of being able to utilize the regular season to return from his bone bruises. The Heat needed him to play through it during the seven-game Finals victory against the San Antonio Spurs and seven games it took to get past the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals that season.
“I couldn’t sit out and heal like I needed to, but it definitely hindered the way I could perform because of it” Wade said. “I just want him to take his time. We’re happy it’s not worse. We’re going to miss him, but make sure he’s healthy before he comes back.”
The Heat breathed a collective sigh of relief that Jones’ injury was not more severe. Jones, who turns 22 on Feb. 15, was down for several scary minutes on the Madison Square Garden floor on Sunday night in Miami’s win over the New York Knicks after suffering what appeared to be a serious knee injury.
“Good news,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who added the team won’t rush Jones back. “We’ll re-evaluate him in six weeks, but no surgery. I think we were all able to eat our family dinners last night, kind of on pins and needles just waiting for his MRI to come back, and it came back clean.”
Jones, an athletic 6-foot-7 forward, was flourishing while playing extended minutes of late. He was averaging 7.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and nearly a steal and a block in 18.1 minutes per game this season.
“Happy that it’s not worse, but feel bad for him because he’s playing very well for our team,” Wade said. “We’re going to miss what he brought. But I’m just happy that it’s not something that [he has] to go and have surgery for, and he’s going to be back sooner rather than later.”
Said fellow forward Justise Winslow, who has been starting at point guard in place of injured Goran Dragic: “We’ve grown super close sitting next to each other in the locker room. I’ve been texting him, just trying to keep him positive and I’m glad that was the outcome as opposed to being a lot worse.”
Spoelstra noted that Jones’ training likely kept the scary injury from being more severe.
“We really do think [what helped was] a lot of the training he’s been doing behind the scenes, strength training with his legs — considerably stronger than he was in the past,” Spoelstra said. “It could’ve been worse if he didn’t have the stabilization and foundation with his legs to be able to catch it before it went worse.”
The latest for Spoelstra in managing the Heat rotation will be to fill in those valuable minutes Jones was providing at small forward and sometimes power forward, especially with Winslow playing point guard.
“We still have some depth in the frontcourt,” Spoelstra said. “[James Johnson] will probably play a little more now. I think he’s ready for that because of his conditioning level and rhythm. The pairing with [Kelly Olynyk] and Bam [Adebayo], we’ll get back to that, as well.”
Of possibly pairing Adebayo with center Hassan Whiteside, Spoelstra said: “We may. Bam’s skill level has gotten much better, so it might be something that we explore.”
By David Furones, South Florida Sun Sentinel