By Tim Reynolds
---- — MIAMI (AP) — Dwyane Wade plans to return to the Miami Heat lineup on Friday, after missing six straight contests because of right knee soreness.
Wade told The Associated Press that his knee is healthy enough for him to play again and that he expects to play in both Friday’s game against the Boston Celtics and Sunday’s matchup against the Chicago Bulls, barring any setbacks.
“I’m feeling good,” Wade said. “The toughest part is mentally more so than physically. I played two weeks with it and eventually I felt it getting a little worse and I said, ‘OK, I’ve got to shut it down.’”
Wade has also dealt with a twisted ankle in the past couple weeks, but the knee was the bigger concern. Doctors eventually found three separate bone bruises that essentially surrounded his kneecap, and Wade said rest and treatment has largely taken care of the problem.
Officially, the Heat are listing Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh as day to day. Wade and James were among the players at the Heat facility Thursday working out and getting treatments. The team was otherwise off and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra isn’t expected to discuss the lineup for the Celtics game until the completion of Miami’s shootaround practice Friday morning.
James has been bothered by a right hamstring strain that has had him sidelined in four of Miami’s past six games. Bosh has missed Miami’s last three games, one with a sore knee and two others with flu and cold symptoms.
Regardless of what the Heat end up doing, Friday’s game in Miami will be lacking at least some star power.
The Celtics plan to play without Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, both of whom are dealing with left ankle soreness.
Standings-wise, the game means nothing to the Heat, who will finish the regular season with the best record in the NBA and have home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
The Celtics are trying to lock up the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference, ensuring they would not meet Miami in the opening round.
Wade is averaging 21.3 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists per game this season for Miami, shooting nearly 56 percent from the floor since the All-Star break in February.
“I was feeling great, playing well,” Wade said. “To have a setback with something like bruises, it was tough.”
Wade’s latest knee issue started March 6, when he took a hit in a game against the Orlando Magic. Another blow to the knee came on March 18 in Boston, resulting in another bruise. Wade said he isn’t sure how the third bruise happened.
Those hits came during what became Miami’s 27-game winning streak, the second-longest in NBA history that was snapped six games shy of the Heat matching the record 33-game run by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1971-72 season.
“I think that winning streak played a role in me playing a little too long,” Wade said.
Wade played March 27 against Chicago, twisting his ankle in that game, the one that snapped the 27-game streak. He started two nights later in New Orleans and logged 33 minutes, then hasn’t appeared since.
He expects his minutes to be somewhat limited on Friday as he works his way back, tuning up for the playoffs.
“I’m sure my lungs will need that,” he said.