For about 23 games last season we got to see what the Miami Heat were capable with a healthy, cohesive line up. Then Dwyane Wade injured his knee. The rest of the season and the playoffs were a struggle, but somehow LeBron James, with Wade pitching in what he could, managed to put Miami over the top for its second consecutive title. For sure, the Heat showed signs of vulnerability. They needed seven games to defeat the then upstart Indiana Pacers. They needed a Ray Allen miracle to fight off the San Antonio Spurs. But they did it. To the victor go the spoils.
A new season is upon us, but even though the Heat are 11-1 in playoff series since James joined in 2010, the media is throwing up more red flags than a drunken NASCAR race. Even though the Heat are only a game out of first place in the East, many pundits are christening the Pacers as the front runners in the East. Although this could easily be construed as a sign of disrespect for the Heat, what it is, most likely, is a lack of faith in the recovery of Wade. Although the supporting cast around James is stronger than he ever had in Cleveland, even sans Wade, there are just too many talented teams standing in the Heat’s way without Wade being, well, Wade.
So forgive me for a little giddiness.
Over the past couple of weeks, Dwyane Wade has looked a lot like Dwyane Wade. His quickness is back, he’s got some hops, the mid-range game looks good, his post game might be better than it ever was, he’s frenetic on defense and that D-Wade attitude has returned.
It is a thing of beauty.
Wade has especially thrived during his stints with James on the bench. He is essentially filling the role James does when in this situation, driving and dishing, leading the defense and asserting his authority over the game. The difference is mostly in the personalities of the two players. James brings an aura to the court. He is a living legend that commands respect. He is a player who will give respect, help up an opponent, and apologize for a hard foul. Wade is a bit different. He is an instigator, an underappreciated superstar with a gigantic chip on his shoulder. Wade is a gambler, a sparkplug and a general nuisance to the opposition. He is the perfect foil for James.
This season will be a long one. The core players for the Heat have played a lot of basketball the last three seasons. There will be a lot of caution taken in regards to the health of their key personnel. However, it is a great sign that Wade looks as spry as he does. If he keeps it up, the Heat will be a tough out come playoff time.