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Wade Plans on Returning

So, the Washington Wizards have more to be concerned with than just holding off the Miami Heat for the Southeast Division title. Now they also have to position themselves and make sure that they don't get the Heat in the first round. The Wizards do not want to see Dwyane Wade in the first round, but looks like some team most certainly will see him after Wade announced today that he will attempt to rehabilitate his dislocated left shoulder and return this season.

I completely understand why Wade felt that he should delay surgery, even though he really should call it a season and not put his career at risk. He's just 25, approaching his prime and has a good 10 seasons left in this league. But if the Miami Heat hadn't won the championship last season, if Pat Riley and Alonzo Mourning hadn't decided to return to defend the title and if the window for Riley, Mourning, Gary Payton and Shaquille O'Neal to win more championships hadn't been so close to being slammed shut, he likely would've had surgery last week, used his good arm to shake everyone's hands and wished them well.

"It could have been easy for me to just shut it down," Wade told reporters in Miami this morning.

But Wade is too loyal, too much of a competitor and too hungry for another ring to leave his teammates hanging -- even at a time when his left arm was dangling. Riley and O'Neal had no trouble taking care of themselves this season and forcing him to carry the team through an extremely difficult period but Wade isn't one to think that two, or three, wrongs make a right. He sought out a second opinion last Friday with specialist Dr. James Andrews and decided to give it a shot after Andrews and team physician Dr. Harlan Selesnik supported the idea.

Wade added that even with his plan for two to three weeks of rehab, his return is "no guarantee" (neither is the sun shining in the spring, but I'd bank on it). Considering the rough-and-tumble manner Mr. Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight plays the game, Wade surely will have a difficult comeback. He added that surgery is inevitable. "It's tough, because I don't know if I can attack," Wade said. "But my body is my body; I'll find out after the rehab."

The Heat is 4-8 without Wade this season, but it has gone 3-2 since he collided with Houston's Shane Battier on Feb. 21. The Heat has benefitted from a resurgent O'Neal and a favorable schedule - back-to-back wins against the Wizards without Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler and Detroit without Rasheed Wallace (a day after Chris Webber's insane birthday party on South Beach) - in the past five games and has actually risen to seventh in the Eastern Conference.

I was prepared to say the Heat was finished after Wade left the court in a wheelchair, but the East is getting progressively worse -- so bad that two teams with 22 wins (Atlanta and Philadelphia) have even begun to use the word, "playoffs" - and Riley and O'Neal have too much pride to miss the postseason (O'Neal hasn't missed them since his rookie year in Orlando). No doubt, Wade has kept an eye on this situation. If the Heat had gone 0-5 in this stretch without him and appeared set for a collapse, he probably wouldn't have considered a second opinion. But if Miami can just get in the playoffs, anything is possible. "The fact that there's a possibility would give us hope," Riley said. "He's a pretty good player. He probably would be a pretty good player one-armed."

With Wade, don't count that out either.

By Michael Lee  |  March 5, 2007; 12:33 PM ET
 
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