Dwyane Wade is anything but washed up
MANILA, Philippines – LeBron James’ intensely anticipated decision to head home over the NBA offseason was warmly welcomed by the general public. He was always the Son of Cleveland, and though his decision to depart his hometown in 2010 forced some to cruelly lambaste him as “Benedict Arnold,” most Ohio natives opened their arms and welcomed their prodigal child back home.
Winning changes everything in sports. Just ask Kobe Bryant, the villain who heard accusations of “rapist” nearly in every arena he visited in 2003 and became the hero of many NBA fans just 6 years later once he led the Lakers to their first championship after the Shaquille O’Neal Era.
Even James, whose jersey was burned in the streets of Cleveland and was crucified by many media in 2010 following The Decision, started earning the adoration of the public once again the moment he raised the Larry O’Brien trophy for the first time in his career following a five-game demolition of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2012 NBA Finals. He won the championship again in 2013 along with his fourth NBA MVP award, punctuating his title as the best player in the league today. Returning to Cleveland a year later was the icing on the cake in his role back to being the most popular player in the league.
The destruction the San Antonio Spurs handed the Heat in the 2014 NBA Finals pushed LeBron to seeking help from younger and more talented teammates. He loved and still loves Dwyane Wade like a brother, and gets along well with Chris Bosh. He liked being a mentor to Mario Chalmers. But Wade’s 33 and Bosh is 30. Irving is 22 and just scored 57 against the Spurs. Love, despite his inadequacies on defense, is 26 and a legitimate superstar-caliber player when at the top of his game.
When James left, many started saying it was mainly due to the demise of Wade - who has been called “washed-up” many times - that was the final nail in the coffin of LeBron’s divorce with Miami.
Let’s get this straight now: Wade is not as good as the 2006 Flash who robbed the Dallas Mavericks of an NBA championship, nor is he anywhere close to being the 2009 MVP candidate who put up 30 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists on a nightly basis and went berserk on the NBA.
Is Wade no longer in his prime? Yes.
But is he washed-up? Absolutely not.
Is he still good, if not even very good? Damn right.
Still getting it done
This NBA season, Wade’s averaging 21.6 PPG (on 48% shooting), 5.2 APG, and 3.7 RPG - numbers better than those of Klay Thompson (21.9-2.9-3.2), Monta Ellis (19.2-4.3-2.4), and Bradley Beal (14.9-3.2-3.9), guys who were supposed to supplant him in the heirarchy of NBA shooting guards.
Over his past 6 games, Wade has scored at least 25 points, all while shooting above 50% from the floor and 80% from the foul line. He’s tied with LeBron at 7.1 for highest scoring average in the fourth quarter. He’s ranked #11 in the league in scoring, #7 in field goals, #10 in free throws, and #20 in assists.
The Heat is scoring 104 points per 100 possessions when Wade’s on the floor. He’s shooting 68% of his shots at the rim, 52% on shots from 3-9 feet, and 44% on shots 10-15 feet. He’s #28 in the NBA in points per game made from post-ups (48% average), but is #1 among guards. He’s also been getting it done on defense, swiping 1.3 steals per contest.
He’s missed quite a number of games this season, but when Wade’s been present, it’s clear his productivity on the floor remains at a high level. More significantly, Wade always shows up for big-time matchups and moments, as if he makes sure to remind the world every week or so that he can still be pure entertainment on the hardwood.
Take the two Miami games against Cleveland where he played this season for example. Both times, Wade out-dueled James and led his team to wins.
In the first half of the game held on Christmas Day-national television with the entire world watching, the Heat All-Star produced 24 points at the half en route to 31 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists. It was vintage Wade - stepping up when his team needed it most, and when the competition demanded greatness out of him.
Against the Cavs on Tuesday, March 17 in Manila, Wade had 21 points in the first half and 16 in the second quarter alone, matching James’ entire team’s output during that 12 minute stretch. He finished with 32 points and 5 steals in addition to converting the finishing daggers for the victory.
Yes, Wade’s missed a lot of games (18) this season, which was also a common trend last year. That’s been the biggest knock on him as of late, and his tendency to miss out on some contests has been a major precedent for the “Wade is washed up” club.
But even reigning league MVP Kevin Durant has played only 27 of the Thunder’s 67 games. Russell Westbrook’s been inactive for 15. Bryant is out for the season after hurting his shoulder, which was also the same problem he faced last year after he injured his knee. Anthony Davis played in only 54 of his team’s 64 matches. DeMar DeRozan has missed 21 games. Beal, who had another significant injury for the third straight year, has played only 49 times this season.
Injuries happen in the NBA often nowadays. Wade’s biggest issue this year, his hamstring, isn’t even the same concern on his right knee that made him miss 28 regular season games last season. He had the type of injury that could have happened to anyone on any given day.
The Heat are currently 30-36, but 23-25 when Wade plays. And it’s best to mention that this is a team that lost All-Star Chris Bosh (blood clots) and key free agent signee Josh McRoberts (meniscus) for the season, only acquired Goran Dragic by the trade deadline, only started utilizing Hassan Whiteside in January, and had to quickly make-up for losing the best player on the planet without getting anything in return over the summer.
Wade has carried a tough burden on his shoulders that has added up due to injuries to key teammates, and though the results haven’t reflected on the league standings, his production, despite of all the challenges, has still been nothing short of superb.
Old Man Game
Flash is gone. The old DWade is gone. The guy you saw in the Converse commercials with the tagline “Fall down seven times, stand up eight” is gone.
No, Wade will no longer drive against three or four defenders in the paint, contort his body in the air, and finish with an acrobatic layup that’s nearly impossible to explain.
No, Wade will no longer put unfortunate big men on posters - like how he did to Anderson Varejao. No, Wade won’t be a constant threat to go off for 45 or 50 points on a nightly basis. No, Wade’s not an MVP candidate, let alone the best player on his team.
But he’s still great.
He’ll finish with nifty floaters flying above the arms of lengthy defenders. He’ll pull out an array of moves in the perimeter, conclude with a step-back jumper, and nail it off the backboard. He’ll use a series of side-steps and over-the-head hesitation moves to get easy shots in transition. He’ll use his patented pump-fake - even if defenders know it’s one of his favorite tricks - to draw fouls and get easy points at the foul line.
Sometimes, he’ll even throw great lobs to Whiteside or throw an insane behind-the-back pass to Dragic while sailing out of bounds. His footwork in the post is fantastic. His basketball IQ has increased tremendously as he relies less on his athleticism. Call it an old man’s game; it doesn’t matter. Two points are two points, regardless of how you get it. And recently, Wade has been lighting up the scoreboard through multiple ways. Less flashy? Yes. Still effective? Absolutely.
Wade has re-invented himself - a process that many players who are fighting Father Time go through but rarely succeed at. Jordan beat it to win a second three-peat, Bryant put it away until his achilles gave up on him in 2013, and Wade is currently winning that battle to remain relevant amidst a sea of critics looking to erase him from the list of the NBA’s elite.
Selfishly, it would be fantastic to see the Heat make the playoffs to witness what Wade could possibly have up his sleeve.
Will he go off on a scoring barrage and conclude a fourth quarter by staring at his hand, as if it’s on fire, like he did against the Boston Celtics in 2010?
Will he hit a game winner, stand like a hero on the scorer’s table of the American Airlines Arena, embrace the voracious Miami Heat crowd, point two fingers on the floor and scream, “This is my house!”?
It is still Wade’s house. It always was.
Sure, he gave James the keys to Miami during the Big Three’s four-year honeymoon that saw four straight NBA Finals appearances and two championships thanks in large part to LBJ’s play. But Wade always remained the heart and soul of the squad and was widely regarded as the architect who brought the core together - the selfless superstar who sacrificed shots and his pride to let his best friend take over the reins.
James was the most talented player on the floor every time Miami took on an opponent, but no one could rile up the Heat’s crowd more than the guy with the number “3” on his back.
Again, Dwyane is no longer the superstar he was years ago.
But he’s still great enough to be one of the best in the NBA.
And rest assured, he is anything but “washed up.” – Rappler.com