Dwyane Wade is rewriting the narrative that has followed him since he limped to a third ring last June. You remember that one don’t you, the story of a player who was getting ready to tee it up on the 17th hole of the back-nine at a course called Retirement Farms? The one about when Robin was no longer giving Batman the help that he needed?
Those stories were all of the rage in 2013 when Wade looked like a shell of the player who won the 2006 title and the one during the Heat’s run to the finals in 2011 and 2012. It was a fair assessment, but it was also a mistake. It’s a common mistake we as a sports community make, but it’s not our fault. There are simply too many demands that have to be met in the world with the Internet. We crave information at such a rapid pace that we have to be fed on a daily basis. The opinion pieces and columns that questioned the future of Wade’s career had to be written because there was enough data to support the claim.
The eye-test also didn’t help Wade’s case. His body was banged up with injuries that we’ll never truly understand, but when Chris Bosh first showed signs of being allergic to the Pacers (or being frightened of Boomer) Wade’s problems became the forefront of the observation tank around the Heat. Why was Wade struggling? Was he never going to be the same? Has Bosh surpassed Wade as the second best player in Miami?
The most noteworthy one: “Will LeBron look around at what’s around him after the season ends and say how fast can I get to New York or Los Angeles?”
After the Heat vanquished the Spurs most of the praise went to LeBron, Bosh (who struggled against the Pacers, had three double-doubles in the finals), Ray Allen’s all-time great shot, the future of the Spurs and how they would rebound from such a crushing defeat. But Wade became a “Keep Getting Dem Checks Guy” even though he shot 49% from the field while putting up 21 shots per game in the final four games of the finals. He put up a quiet 23.5/6/4 in just over 39 minutes a night during that stretch. He morphed into the player that LeBron needed when he needed him the most, but the blur of Allen’s shot and the wackiness of how the Spurs lost Game 6 has buried the notes on the job Wade did in the most crucial stretch of the season.
The narrative couldn’t be changed in this past regular season because Wade only played in 52 games and wasn’t particularly effective in those 52 games. But hey when was the last time being ready for the regular season meant something when you’ve won two straight titles? You would have to think that Wade is smart enough to realize that the situation around you is a once in an era opportunity. He has to make the most out of it if his legacy is going to mean something. Think about how badly Wade wanted everyone to call him Three after last year’s title win (which is incredibly a way worse nickname than Way of Wade). You can bet that long after Wade and LeBron retire and we’re talking about the greatness of LeBron, Wade will pipe up about how he has one more ring than him if that ends up being the case. It’s a trump card that you can bet Wade has stored underneath his bed.
Wade is one of the toughest competitors in his sport, but his competitiveness doesn’t always translate very well:
Quick Rondo all-injury/dirty hit team
SG: Darren Collison
SF: Kobe Bryant
PF: Paul George
C: Kevin Garnett
He bitches and complains just like every other superstar who plays in the NBA, but it’s so much easier to jump on Wade because he isn’t the dominating presence that he once was. The claims of Wade being a shell of his former self during the regular season could be supported by looking at his points per game (20.5), his shots per game (14.1) and his free throw attempts per game (5.2). His points, shots and free throw attempt numbers were either the lowest of his career (shots) or the lowest since his rookie season.
Wade cruised against Charlotte in the first round: 17.5 ppg, 13 shots per game, 49 fg%
And Brooklyn in the second: 18.2 ppg, 15 shots per game, 51 fg%
But, has come alive against the Pacers: 24.3, 17 shots per game and an absurd 62 fg%
In the first three games of the Eastern Conference finals, Wade has picked his spots beautifully. His cuts to the basket have been precise and unstoppable at times. He’s proven to be deadly when he gets in his sweet spot on the court, which is within eight feet of the basket. He’s taken 176 shots so far in the postseason and 48% of them (74) have been taken in that range. He’s currently shooting 66% in that area.
In Game 3 Wade did something he hasn’t done in the postseason since Game 4 of the 2012 NBA Finals and something that he only did twice in the regular season. Wade actually made two three pointers in a game. And it wasn’t two threes spread out over a game. They were on back to back possessions, which is the equivalent of winning the lottery and then being struck by lightning in your house as you hold up the winning ticket.
Earlier this season, analytics crowned Wade as the “worst three point shooter in the history of the NBA” due to his inability to hit threes in crunch time- which is when the score is within five points with five minutes left in the fourth quarter or overtime – even though he has taken a high number of those shots. In a league that has seen a gigantic uptick in the amount of threes taken, Wade’s numbers in that category look like they’re from a different era. In the 52 games he played during the regular season, he only attempted 32 shots from behind the arc and only made nine of them.
During his hobbled playoff run last year, Wade only attempted four threes in the 22 games he played. He’s taken 12 threes in the 12 playoff games he’s played in this season and made four of them. He’s on pace to shoot somewhere between 18-23 threes depending on how many games Miami plays the rest of the way. That number is significantly down from the 44 threes he took in the Heat’s first run to the title in 2012 and from the 52 he took in the 2011 playoffs. It’s proof that Wade has figured out how to be more efficient and thus more dangerous when he’s on the floor.
But once again Wade is being lost in the shuffle of storylines that have surrounded the Heat since the media started paying attention to them again during the Brooklyn series. I think I’ve heard more about the loss of Mike Miller than I have about Wade’s resurgence. It’s just fascinating how easy it can be to bash Wade at times and how hard it seems to be to give him the credit he deserves. I guess that’s what happens when you hand off the keys to the car and decide to ride passenger. The person driving the car is the one that gets the group from point A to point B, but he wouldn’t be able to get there without the guy riding shotgun looking at the directions.
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