Before Dwyane Wade even sat down for a post-practice news conference yesterday in Miami, he offered a pre-emptive strike.
"I'm not hurt," he said.
And that was news Miami Heat fans wanted to hear on the eve of the NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks.
Wade, Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller and James Jones were all back in practice yesterday, a day after being held out of contact drills for precautionary reasons. Everyone fully participated in the workout, which coach Erik Spoelstra said he had to cut a bit short because of how physical things were getting.
"Guys were hitting a little too hard," Spoelstra said. "A little bit too amped up."
The Heat host Game 1 of the Finals tonight.
Wade has heard many questions about his health in recent days, dismissing them all, though his numbers in the Eastern Conference finals - he never shot over 50 percent in any of those five games and was getting treatment on his surgically repaired left shoulder as the series wore on - sparked speculation that something was wrong.
Wade has insisted there's no major issue, saying instead that no one is fully healthy at this point in the season. Like Spoelstra, Wade said yesterday's practice was of the high-energy variety.
"Needless to say, this is one of the most anticipated practices for us all since training camp . . . because this is the opportunity - this is the time where not a lot of people on our team have been," Wade said. "Not a lot of guys have been to the Finals."
Mavericks guard Jason Kidd has been to the Finals in his 17-year career, in 2002 and '03 with the New Jersey Nets, but he has never won. Tonight, he will become the oldest guard to start a game in the Finals.
While Dirk Nowitzki calls him a "fossil," and Shawn Marion described him as being "almost 50," Kidd is a few months past 38. That's 2 years older than Ron Harper was when he started for the Lakers in 2000.
Of course, Kidd would prefer the title of oldest starting guard to win a championship. That also was set by Harper in 2000.
The only concessions to age Kidd seems to have made are playing less minutes and tolerating the flecks of gray in his beard.
He still starts most fast breaks and controls the halfcourt offense. Leave him open and he'll hit a three-pointer; he made six in the first-round opener and buried another in the final minute of overtime to win Game 4 of the conference finals.
Defense is where he's really excelled this postseason. Late in close games, coach Rick Carlisle has assigned Kidd to cover Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Carlisle has said Kidd will be among those asked to slow LeBron James in this series.
So much for taking it easy on the old man.
"We're always a better basketball team when he's our facilitator on the court, and he's getting guys in different positions and leading the offense, and helping us in our flow game," Carlisle said. "When we've got to call plays, I'll call them once in a while, but he's great at that, too. The more he can do it, the better our team plays."