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Wade misses fourth straight game; time to be concerned?

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The Heat will again be shorthanded when they host the Lakers on Thursday night. Did Wade suffer a setback or is this the norm for now on this season?

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Dwyane Wade will again be held out of action as the Miami Heat get set to host the Los Angeles Lakers in a nationally broadcast game on TNT.

This marks his fourth consecutive game missed and 13 overall this season, but is it time to truly get worried about Wade's injury woes or is this all part of his ongoing conditioning and rehab program?

Erik Spoelstra and the team maintain that this a product of the grueling season, with Wade only now able to get back to his customary rehab routine at the AmericanAirlines Arena after the team's road trip.

"Heat Nation does not need to be panicked," coach Erik Spoelstra said earlier today after shootaround. "In terms of Dwyane's health, we've said it time and time again: It's going to be a process. There's absolutely no way I'm going [to look] days ahead.

"I know he's feeling much better today to be in there working. That's a good sign. We'll see how he feels tomorrow. Maybe he'll do a little bit more."

The Heat are 6-6 this season without Wade in the lineup, with the prospects of catching up to the Pacers for the #1 seed appearing dimmer with each missed game from the Player Formally Known As Flash. The team can no longer rely on Mike Miller like they did the previous two seasons. While Rashard Lewis and Michael Beasley have had their moments this season, neither has been given consistent minutes. Shane Battier and Ray Allen have struggled with their shooting as well as on the defensive end.

Wade played last week against the Washington Wizards and two days afterward versus the Philadelphia 76ers, scoring just eight points in each game.

Spoelstra maintained that the recent road trip was mostly the cause for Wade's need for rest.

"Look, the schedule is not an excuse. It just was a little bit of a bizarre schedule, where we were out on the road and we had no time with our equipment. He's in there working out, which is a great sign.

"We knew it would be a process. Not every day is going to feel the same. But we're back home and he's back on the routine. We'll get him back feeling good, and just continue to hopefully make steps forward."

While the obvious goal is to get Wade healthy in time for the postseason, for every game that Wade looks aggressive and in attack mode there are two games in which he simply doesn't have that spark. Now entire games are being scratched due to his rehab and Spoelstra must be careful not to rely too much on LeBron James or Chris Bosh given the inconsistency with the rest of the team. More minutes for Allen or Battier isn't exactly a good thing either if they enter the postseason hobbled as well.

Then again, we've seen players all around the league suffer setbacks to their recovery or get re-injured such as Derrick Rose, Kobe Bryant and Russell Westbrook. Had these players been limited to a schedule such as Wade's, perhaps they would still be playing right now.

For now, the team must stick with the plan and with the "process" and hope for the best by the end of the regular season. Is there any other choice?