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Fourth-Place Medal

Dwyane Wade, on the mend, will join his former Team USA mates in London to cheer them on

Fourth-Place Medal

Dwyane Wade suffered through his rehab with Gabrielle Union and an expensive German coupe (Getty Images)

When Dwyane Wade announced in late June that he would be undergoing a badly needed (ha!) surgical procedure on his bothersome left knee, subsequently missing the 2012 Olympics as a result, most right-thinking sorts gave the All-Star a pass. After all, he was clearly hampered by the knee (and, potentially, other ailments) throughout an up and down postseason run for the Miami Heat, though Wade still played expertly overall on his way to nearly 23 points per game and his second NBA championship (with no partying, this time).

[Photos: Dwyane Wade]

And because Wade is Wade, and the July 9 knee surgery pegged him with a four-to-six-week recovery period, he'll be hopping the ferry 'cross the Mersey to London next week to cheer on his former Team USA mates once the doctors clear that month-long rehab stint off the calendar. Even though he'll probably take a plane, and the River Mersey is nowhere near London.

Wade, in an interview with USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt, is using the eventual trip as a bit of cold comfort in the wake of the idea that, at age 30, he might not be long for the Team USA program even if the squad doesn't adhere to the under-23 proposal. Here's a clip from Zillgitt's piece:

"Obviously, I wish I could be there and playing," Wade said. "Those are my guys. This probably would have been my last hurrah. I wanted to do it again."

Instead, Wade, who won gold in 2008, is scheduled to arrive in London next week.

Even pushing to appear on Team USA, at age 30, was a risk. Most consider that age to be around an NBA player's prime, and Wade is hardly falling off of late, but he's nursed significant leg injuries as a result of his active and at times dangerous style of play. Couple that with international play in 2004, 2006 and 2008 and his Heat often playing deep into spring and sometimes early summer every year, and you've got a D-Wade with a lot of T-Read on those tires.

(I apologize for what you just read.)

[Related: Australian women's basketball player sets Olympic record]

Back to Zillgitt:

So Wade is headed to London with his sons, Zaire and Zion.

"I can't wait go to be around those guys and share those moments before they hit the court," Wade says. "Even though I'm not playing, we still want to come to London and enjoy the experience of the USA team."

The crux of Zillgitt's piece is the inevitable relationships and friendships that these extended bouts of international play are fostering between players that, in decades past, would have been ardent antagonists year-round. It's true that the AAU circuit that precedes and NBA player's time in the bigs ads to that sense of familiarity, but getting to suit up every other year with a like-minded cast of superstars has made fast friends out of Wade, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Chris Paul.

Some would say someone like Larry Bird would retch at this, but wasn't he the one shot-gunning domestic beers with Patrick Ewing on Team USA some 20 years ago?

Whatever the impetus, Wade's presence for the last three rounds (presuming Team USA, at 2-0 as it heads into Thursday's contest against Nigeria) will make for a nice storyline and a cool couple of shots for NBC to cut to.

And a chance for Wade to feel, again, part of a team that he has every right to feel kinship with.

More London Olympics coverage on Yahoo! Sports:
South Korean weightlifter dislocates elbow in Games' most gruesome injury
Adrian Wiggins celebrates gold by getting 'blind drunk'
How photographers take underwater pictures of swimmers

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