With 4:41 left in the first quarter, Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade stepped up from the bench and entered Sunday's game against the San Antonio Spurs. It was a simple act, but also an unusual one.
For the first time in more than six years – a streak of 483 consecutive games that dated to Jan. 6, 2008 – Wade came off the bench for the Heat. He had missed the previous four games to rest his knees. As Miami chases a third straight NBA championship, Wade's health is the biggest question hanging over the team.

"The reality of it is you got to wait and see," Wade said after scoring eight points in 23 minutes during a 113-101 victory over the Spurs. "I'm not going to make a bigger deal of it than it is and I'm going to act like it's nothing. …People could think what they want. I'm continuing to work to make sure I'm at my best when I can be."

Wade's knee problems go back to his college days at Marquette. He had surgery to remove a meniscus from his left knee in 2002 after his sophomore season. He has said he regretted having that surgery because he thinks it has contributed to his chronic knee issues. Wade underwent shock-wave knee treatment last July, which is a procedure that typically needs six months to fully take.

Wade has missed 12 games this season because of concerns about his knees. He's averaging 18.5 points this season, the first time he's averaged fewer than 20 since his rookie season. But there have been flashes of his old self – on Dec. 18, he scored 32 points against the Indiana Pacers.

How Wade is used for the remainder of the season likely will continue to depend on how his knees feel.

"Look, I understand that everybody is going to use this as a lightning-rod subject to talk about for the next three days," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Nothing is set in stone the rest of the year. We're going to evaluate everything day to day. We need Dwyane healthy."