With the start of the NBA Finals drawing closer, the Miami Heat practiced yesterday without guards Dwyane Wade and Gary Payton because of illness.
Wade was with the team for pre-practice meetings yesterday before leaving to see a physician because of a flu-like virus that he's been fighting since Friday.
He was briefly hospitalized hours before Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals because of dehydration, but played and scored 14 points in the win over Detroit.
"He's fine. We sent him back to the doctor to get some more medication," Heat coach Pat Riley said. ``Another checkup . . . We feel like he'll be OK."
Riley said the flu wasn't affecting any other member of the team, "just Dwyane."
On Sunday, Wade said he was feeling better, but still trying to push fluids. He needed several intravenous fluid bags during the day Friday, and got another IV at halftime of Game 6 against the Pistons -- delaying his arrival for the second half, which was 2 1/2 minutes old by the time he emerged from the locker room.
Payton went home suffering from a migraine headache. He reported in the morning and conferred with the team's medical staff before departing.
"He'll be fine," Riley said.
The Heat will practice in Miami today before flying to Dallas. They'll work out there tomorrow, then open the NBA Finals against the Mavericks Thursday night.
He certainly has the numbers to back it up.
Over 36 career games against Dallas, O'Neal has averaged 29.3 points. That's his most against any team and it's tops of any player who has ever faced the Mavericks more than six times.
O'Neal also has been good for 12.2 rebounds per game against them, which ranks near the top of all Dallas foes while being only a half-board per game above his league-wide average.
Dooming as it all may sound, the stats come with a disclaimer: Most were rung up against the likes of Shawn Bradley and other helpless defenders. Those guys may have had O'Neal's height or bulk, but none had both -- and many had neither.
The Mavericks are better equipped this time around, with a pure center tandem of DeSagana Diop and Erick Dampier. They won't stop O'Neal, but Dallas coach Avery Johnson is hoping that together they might be able to slow the Diesel.
``You need bodies," Johnson said. ``We've got two big bodies now."