Lance Stephenson vs. Dwyane Wade is one of the top matchups to watch in the Eastern Conference finals, and it turns out Stephenson's motormouth vs. Wade's balky knee is worth keeping an eye on too.
Indiana's volatile guard decided to take a swipe at Wade's troublesome knee one day before the Pacers and Heat square off in Game 1 at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
“D. Wade, his knee is kind of messed up, so I have to be extra aggressive and make him run," Stephenson said Saturday, according to Pacers.com. Tell coach [Frank Vogel] to run 'Floppy' and run him around and make his knee flare up or something. Do anything possible so the games will come easier for us.”
The Heat have carefully managed Wade's minutes all season in an effort to keep him fresh for the playoffs. The 32-year-old All-Star guard averaged 19 points, 4.7 assists and 4.5 rebounds in a career-low 32.9 minutes per game this season, and he appeared in just 54 games, often resting during back-to-backs. Wade had his left knee drained during Miami's run to the 2012 title, and LeBron James joked during the 2013 Finals that Wade, who sustained bone bruises on his right knee, was playing with a "bum knee all year."
All things considered, the extra medical attention seems to have paid off. Wade is averaging 17.9 points, four assists and 3.6 rebounds during the postseason, and he's shooting 50 percent from the field. Miami breezed through the first two rounds of the playoffs, going 8-1 against Charlotte and Brooklyn, and they now stand just four wins away from their fourth straight Finals trip.
Wade underwent season-ending surgery on his left knee in March 2008, but his knee issues date back much further than that. Back in October, Wade lamented the decision to remove meniscus from his left knee in 2002 while he was playing at Marquette.
"My knee problems and the things I've dealt with started from that," Wade told ESPN.com. "That was  years ago and technology was different and the way you approach things was different. At that moment, if everyone looked ahead and said, 'Dwyane's going to have a 20-year career, maybe we should do something different,' maybe I wouldn't have [knee issues]. At that time it was to get me back on the basketball court and do what is best."
It's worth noting that Stephenson and Wade were involved in a pair of altercations during Indiana's one-point victory back in April. Both players were issued technical fouls for a brief shoving match and Stephenson was eventually ejected for staring down Wade during the fourth quarter.
"It’s just basketball," Stephenson said, according to the Palm Beach Post. "If I see D. Wade walking in the street, I won’t try to get him. It’s just basketball and just playing hard against each other. We both have a goal and neither of is gonna allow that to happen easily. I don’t got no problems with them, but on the court there’s no friends."
Wade averaged 21.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists in three games against the Pacers this year, while Stephenson averaged 12.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and three assists in four games against the Heat.