The NBA’s All-Star Weekend is a gaudy mass of excess. Too loud, too bright, too much.
Perhaps it was fitting that it took place in the City of New Orleans, soon to enjoy its vacation from reality and responsibility otherwise known as Mardi Gras.
In between the booming speakers, the throngs of media and the spectacle that was more a carnival/concert mash-up than an actual game, one absence seemed particularly glaring.
Dwyane Wade, having missed 15 games this season, was only on the court for 11 minutes.It’s no coincidence, this limited participation in the annual protest of defense known as the All-Star Game. Having missed the previous two games, Wade knew a long stint in Sunday’s game wasn’t advisable.
As he told the Sun Sentinel’s Shandel Richardson:
“I wanted to play but I decided not to for the better of our season.”
“Our,” of course, being the Miami Heat, Wade’s full-time employer and the team competing for a third consecutive championship.
But Wade, whose status was in doubt due to last week’s sudden foot injury (as well as nagging knee issues), saw this whole weekend with what he called, a “different lense.”
“My first couple years, I did everything possible. I didn’t get no sleep. I barely ate. You try to get everything in. This time, I didn’t go out as much. I went out one night. I went to listen to jazz music, sit back and enjoy myself with my loved ones and not really worried being in the scene as much. When you’re younger, you want to get it all in.”
And there it is, summed up perfectly in that last sentence, a sense of awareness superstar athletes find hard to accept.
“When you’re younger…”
Wade sees the light at the end of his NBA tunnel, even if that light is still years away from shining on his eventual retirement. And part of that acceptance is understanding that the All-Star experience is never a guarantee.
To fully cement that concept, Wade needs to do nothing more than look down the bench to his Western Conference counterparts and see, for the first time in over a decade, Kobe Bryant wearing a suit and not the garish jerseys of the game’s participants.
Moreover, as injuries continue to affect Wade’s productivity, the format for All-Star selection will make it harder and harder to include aging stars like him. New rules specific that fans must select two backcourt players and three frontcourt players as ASG starters. Those players are voted in, regardless of position.
That’s why Carmelo Anthony, at 6’9, jumped up for the game’s opening tip while 7’2” Roy Hibbert, selected by coaches as a reserve, sat on the bench.
That impacts Wade future selection a great deal. Players that might have been voted in were it not for injuries include Derrick Rose, Deron Williams, and Rajon Rondo – all point guards that have huge fan bases. They could conceivably have replaced Dwyane in the starting lineup.
Couple the veteran threat with one consisting of several up-and-comers throughout the Eastern Conference – Indiana’s Lance Stephenson, Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan, Washington’s John Wall and Bradley Beal as well as Orlando’s Victor Oladipo – and Wade’s future participation seems tenuous, at best.
And that list does not even include Wade’s starting backcourt mate in the ASG, Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving, who incidentally won the game’s Most Valuable Player trophy.
The threats are real and as time continues to affect Wade, one of the greatest guards in NBA history, it seems less likely that he’ll represent the Heat in future contests like these.
Of sitting out the game’s crucial fourth quarter, he said, “I was just being a fan and out there rooting the guys on.”
Unfortunately for Wade, it’s a role he better get used to.