- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 7, 2015

MIAMI (AP) - Dwyane Wade was on the basketball court early Wednesday to take on a couple critics who thought it was a good idea to challenge the Miami Heat guard.

His kids lost.

“We played a lot of different games,” Wade said. “I had to come back from behind in one of them.”

Their before-school backyard game was on the court adorned in Marquette colors at their home, and it’ll be the last time Wade plays in friendly surroundings for the next couple weeks. Wade and the struggling Heat start a five-game trip in Portland on Thursday, beginning a stretch that could help turn things around or just add to their tailspin.

“The only thing I do know,” Wade said, “is it can’t get any worse.”

Miami (15-20) is clinging to the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference and this trip isn’t exactly filled with easy games. Portland (27-8) had the NBA’s second-best record entering Wednesday’s action, and that game is followed by matchups against the Los Angeles Clippers (currently 23-12), the Los Angeles Lakers (11-24), Golden State (an NBA-best 27-5) and Sacramento (14-20).

“You don’t want to come back from this road trip and be 10 games under .500,” Wade said.

That’s his way of saying what awaits is a challenge.

“A great challenge,” Wade said. “These teams are playing very well and we haven’t played that well. So it’s time for us to go out there and just play basketball and not have to worry about the pressure of losing games at home. … Now that goes away. It’s not going to be easy at all, but we can just focus on the game and whatever it takes to win.”

Somewhat strangely, the Heat are better on the road (8-8) than at home (7-12), which is one of the reasons why they are fighting this uphill battle in the standings. They have shot a tiny bit better on the road than in Miami so far this season, average nearly three more assists per game, one fewer turnover and score at roughly the same clip.

But even with LeBron James back in Cleveland and this roster looking nothing like the ones that went to the last four NBA Finals, Heat center Chris Bosh thinks opponents still have Miami circled as an important game.

“For sure, absolutely,” Bosh said. “Guys want to get their just due, man.”

This trip is an annual tradition of sorts, coinciding with the circus’ annual stop at Miami’s home arena. It might not have the same cache as San Antonio’s annual rodeo trip or the road swings that the Clippers and Lakers make when they’re displaced from Staples Center by awards shows, but it’s been valuable to Miami in the past.

Bosh, Wade and coach Erik Spoelstra all spoke Wednesday of the opportunity that Miami has on this trip to bond, since the team will be together for nearly two full weeks.

“I want to bond and win,” Bosh said. “I don’t want to just bond.”

NOTES: The Heat recalled G Shabazz Napier from their NBA Development League affiliate in Sioux Falls. … Spoelstra said Miami made the decision to waive G Andre Dawkins earlier this week for roster flexibility, though cautioned that no move was imminent to fill the lone open spot on the team’s 15-player list.

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