Simien back in form after infection

? It already had dampened his NBA Finals experience, so even a significant salmonella infection wasn’t about to get in the way of Wayne Simien’s wedding.

So at 30 pounds below his usual weight and still not completely recovered from the effects of salmonella, Simien decided to leave South Miami Hospital this summer against medical advice and get married.

“Hey, I was getting married, man,” said Simien, who married his wife, Katie, on July 8. “I wasn’t going to put that on hold for anything.”

Simien’s basketball career, however, was put on hold momentarily while salmonella bacteria tore through his system. Simien, a Kansas University product, was first diagnosed just before the start of the NBA Finals, which forced him to stay in Miami during Games 1 and 2 in Dallas. Simien, who was unaware how the salmonella was triggered in his system, was treated and thought to be healthy.

But back in Kansas at the end of the June, Simien had to be hospitalized, feeling much worse than he had.

“I had salmonella in my blood and in my urine,” Simien said. “It tore me up. I don’t know if I got it from something I ate. I was in the hospital for nine days straight, lost almost 30 pounds.”

On July 7, after having spent time in Kansas and Miami hospitals, Simien decided that even at 220 pounds he would leave the hospital and go ahead with his wedding. There was no time for minor details such as refitting his tuxedo.

“I was swimming in it a little bit,” Simien said.

Soon thereafter began the recovery process. Simien couldn’t play with the Heat summer-league team in Orlando because of his condition, needing a month of recuperation before returning to significant physical activity.

Of course, he had someone by his side the entire time.

“I was married then,” Simien said. “I had a wife to cook for me every day. Somebody was taking care of me. I probably didn’t really get into things until about mid-August.”

Simien eventually returned to his more familiar 250-pound playing weight and was back practicing with some of the younger Heat players by Labor Day.

In the month since, Simien says he hasn’t felt any setbacks from the battle with salmonella. In fact, Heat coach Pat Riley said Wednesday that Simien was the best player on the practice floor.

“He’s smarter, has more experience, has no fear,” Riley said of the second-year power forward. “He’s very confident in his abilities. He hustles. He’s right there. He feels comfortable now, I think, as a second-year player. He’s a very smart player. He picks up all of our schemes and offenses very well.”

The problem for Simien is that won’t necessarily translate into regular playing time this season. At least not when Udonis Haslem, Antoine Walker, Shaquille O’Neal and Alonzo Mourning all are healthy.

Riley’s advice to Simien: Hang in there.

“It’s hard to get minutes here, but you never know,” Riley said. “He’s just got to keep playing, coming in every day and battling. You’ve just got to play. He can’t get discouraged.”

Based on his experience this past summer, Simien can handle a good battle.