MIAMI (AP) – Dwyane Wade accompanied the Miami Heat to Detroit on Friday. Whether he’ll join them on the basketball court Saturday night remains unknown.

Wade’s strained right rib muscle remained painful and tender on Friday, so much so that he wasn’t able to participate in his team’s light on-court workout. His status won’t be determined until Saturday, but teammates are preparing themselves for the prospect of playing without him in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals.

“He definitely didn’t look like one of the top 50 beautiful people when he came in this morning,” backcourt mate Damon Jones said, referring to Wade’s recent inclusion on People magazine’s annual list.

Occasional jokes aside, Wade’s injury is clearly concerning the Heat. He was their leading scorer in the regular season, has raised his game to another level in the playoffs, and has averaged 27 points in the five games so far against Detroit in this best-of-seven series, which Miami leads 3-2.

Wade was scheduled for repeated treatment sessions Friday and, if necessary, again on Saturday. Heat coach Stan Van Gundy said he has no plans to keep Wade out of Game 6 and rest him in case the series comes down to a winner-take-all Game 7 in Miami on Monday night.

“That would not be my preference, no,” Van Gundy said. “My preference would be to play my best players every game.”

Yet Van Gundy did not indicate that Wade’s injury improved any between Thursday and Friday.

“If he couldn’t go today, there’s probably a chance he couldn’t go tomorrow,” Van Gundy said after Friday’s workout.

Wade was not in Miami’s practice facility when it opened to reporters, and did not speak to the media on Friday. He was injured during the Heat’s 88-76 win in Game 5 while executing a crossover dribble, and aggravated it when taking a charge against Rasheed Wallace midway through the third quarter.

Wade went to the locker room, returned for the first two minutes of the fourth quarter, but then retreated again to the locker room and stayed there for the rest of the game.

“All I can do now is just try to get better for the next game so I can be out there with my teammates,” Wade said Thursday night. “Main thing is I’m proud of them guys for really gutting this win out and I’m home and moving on to Game 6.”

Battling injuries is something that Miami has become accustomed to, much to the Heat’s chagrin.

Shaquille O’Neal has had a bruised right thigh for nearly two months, Damon Jones has spent virtually the entire postseason playing with a sore heel, Udonis Haslem dislocated his left middle finger the day before the Detroit series started, and Eddie Jones injured his ankle in Game 4 against the Pistons.

Now comes perhaps the biggest concern of all, since Wade has been Miami’s catalyst all season.

“Everyone else just has to step up,” O’Neal said. “We’ve got a good team and whenever we’ve had guys out, guys have stepped up beautifully. Damon’s going to have to score more. Eddie’s going to have to score more. … If Flash is not going, everyone’s going to have to step up.”

Wade missed four games with injuries this season, not including when Van Gundy kept him out of Miami’s meaningless win at Orlando in the regular-season finale. Without Wade, Miami lost at San Antonio and the Los Angeles Clippers, and won at home against Milwaukee and at Golden State.

Yet obviously, Miami’s chance of winning Game 6 and clinching a spot in the NBA Finals is much better with Wade in the lineup against Detroit.

“If it’s an injury is doing better, then he’ll probably push it,” O’Neal said. “If it’s an injury that’s getting worse, he probably shouldn’t. … All of our guys are banged up. We just want to try to get a win in a hostile arena.”

AP-ES-06-03-05 1643EDT


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