Dwyane Wade, Rick Barry, two referees and two off-brand guitars (Getty Images)
For the second postseason in a row, despite holding the Lawrence O’Brien trophy aloft following the churn, it was a rough set of playoffs for Dwyane Wade. Due to lingering issues with his battered knees, the Miami Heat guard’s contributions once again paled in comparison to his regular season output. Over the two-month, 22-game slog (not including one sit-out in the first round), Wade averaged just under 16 points on 45 percent shooting, and 9.4 combined rebounds/assists. Good enough stats for most, but hardly the sort of production you’d expect from his generation’s version of Jerry West.
Following that run, as was the case in 2012, Wade underwent treatment for his ailing knees, but this time around he eschewed surgery in favor of a less invasive procedure. It was the right move, because nothing was technically torn or missing from either knee. Still, years and years of wear and tear had caused bone bruises in his right knee, and swelling issues in his left, so Wade went with shockwave treatments and slow rest and rehabilitation as a way to get things right by October.
In talking at a charity event in Miami on Thursday, though, Wade admits that he’s not quite there yet. Good thing the season doesn’t get rolling for another ten weeks. From the Sun-Sentinel:
"I had to take a month off after I did my treatment and this weekend will be a month to the day," he said during an event at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. "It's the kind of treatment for tendinitis, certain areas in your knee."
"Feeling a lot better," Wade said at Thursday's event, which included appearances by Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, Hall of Fame forward Rick Barry, comedian Kevin Hart and Indiana coach Tom Crean, who coached Wade at Marquette. "I'm not at 'great' yet. I'm feeling a lot, lot better.
"Right now I have to work on the strengthening part of it. So, I still have time before the season. By the time the season [starts], I think I'll be as good as I've been."
As we mentioned above, “as good as I’ve been” would mean some legendary, Hall of Fame-worthy stuff. If Wade is fully rested after three consecutive deep trips into the Finals heading into 2013-14, the resurgence could be enough to secure the Heat a much easier ride to another championship next June.
The issue with this hope is that Wade turns 32 midseason, and the man goes hard. Despite missing significant chunks of five different regular seasons, he’s piled up nearly 30,000 career regular and postseason minutes, on top of playing international ball for Team USA in three different summers. It would have been four if knee surgery hadn’t cut his time with Team USA short last year.
He’s not exactly Allen Iverson, but Wade’s style of play will also get in the way. D-Wade is as savvy as they come, but he can’t spend his later years in the post, as Michael Jordan did, due to his relatively short shooting guard frame. And Wade, a career 29 percent three-point shooter, can’t really hang out behind the arc as his temples gray.
He’s still ridiculously effective, though. As a second option, Wade has shot over 50 percent from the floor in his three regular seasons with LeBron James, unheard of numbers in this era for a guard who scores as much as Dwyane. And though his efficiency has shot way down during the last two postseasons, his presence has still been enough to help the Heat skip past the Thunder and Spurs in late June, and this is all with LeBron (frighteningly) not at his prime yet, and improving from year to year.
And what if Wade’s guesswork is correct? What if this is the best move – a year after surgery, an offseason after playing 22 playoff games – to make Dwyane Wade as daisy fresh in June as he usually is in January?
That half-full approach should act as a scary thought for the rest of the league. Slowly easing those knees back into health, instead of taking to the surgeon’s table, could serve as the necessary tonic. And, again, he still has two and a half months to rest up until the games count again.
It’s a pivotal year. Not only can Wade and company stake their claim as one of the dynastic greats with a third-straight NBA title (a feat that has only been accomplished by two other squads since a Boston Celtic spree that ended 45 years ago), but both Wade, James, and Chris Bosh can opt out of their contracts next summer, and either re-sign for far more money, or watch as the Heat decline to re-sign one of the triptych in order to save themselves millions in luxury tax penalties.
Or, worst case scenario, watch as James decides to leave the Heat; mindful of the team’s payroll worries, and Wade’s battered knees.
Dwyane, unlike James (who truly has no clue what he’s going to do next July), plans on dealing with that intrigue head on. From the Sun-Sentinel:
"I'm not going to deal with it," he said of the speculation that will envelop James. "I'm going to address it on media day and that'll be the last time I address it. But obviously it's a part of it."
He paused and smiled.
"Everyone knows where I want to be," he said, having spent all 10 of his NBA seasons in South Florida. "That's what it's all about to me, is making sure we focus on this season, winning this championship.
"I want to be in Miami and I have nothing else to talk about. So there won't be no exciting news over here."
Translation: I love it here, and I can make the most money here, so I’m going to bust my ass all year to prove that I’m still worth a maximum contract at age 32.
Knees willing, that is.
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