Even as it was a shout out to the past to see Dwyane Wade have a throwback 2013 game in Philly, it was also everything we know. Wade dribble, change directions, floater. Wade drive to the rim. Wade turnaround jumper. (That wasn’t fair to hurt Robert Covington, T.J. McConnell, Ben Simmons like that). Wade dribbling in and out of traffic. Wade stripping the ball. Even as he looked like he was a little slower than his prime, you remember him. Despite how ingrained his image is in a Heat jersey, Dwyane Wade is not a stranger. But let’s be real about time and place. Wade in the playoffs for the Miami Heat is something to savor because it’s not going to be a long time thing. He has to decide if he wants to play after this year. As sentimental as his game 2 was in Philly, and yes he was trying to just win the game, Wade is almost gone. Flash Wade. Fall seven times, get up eight times, Wade. Wade County everything Wade. And Wade being inspired by Kevin Hart’s courtside trash talk.
This past weekend I saw Wade and Gabrielle Union on a tv show where they bought a house and flipped a house. At first, it was a double take. Is that Wade? It reminded me that his next chapter may not be here but he is preparing for it. He’s already told those who matter he wants no part of a farewell tour. Kobe told him after 30 games, it’s exhausting. Wade wants to play. He wants fans to applaud. And then he wants to turn the page.
But after what he did on Monday night- 21 points in the second quarter- he still has a little bit of something left. Perhaps not every game. Perhaps the Heat cannot depend on him night after night. But when Goran Dragic is boring and Hassan Whiteside can’t kept up when Philly spaces the floor, Dwyane Wade is that thing you know.
His teammates don’t need any encouragement to play hard and tough and act like it’s a street fight, but seeing old school Wade put a pep in their step. They went at The Process hard. And then checked around them. Where was Flash? Where was driving to the cup? Where was falling down 7 times, getting up 8? Oh, okay. Right there.
Wade looked like he was getting used to being in the playoffs again the way he used to be in the playoffs, being the force. It doesn’t mean much about the series. Just like the 76ers scoring 130 in game one didn’t tell us anything, throwback Wade could be just a one game tour. What is going to continue though is the Spoelstra gameplan of 48 minutes of hell.
Miami lacks elite talent. They can only compete by being more physical and hoping it’s a good night for shots. All the Wade theater is good for his teammates psyche. The beauty of Wade is he lets players be themselves. He doesn’t need to make it all about him. He is generous. In the 4th when the 76ers were on a 7-0 run Wade didn’t need to be the hero, he set up the play for a Kelly Olynyk jumper.
This is a team that is based on all the parts working together. That Wade is here is a testament to failure elsewhere. Cleveland was miserable with Wade who putJ.R.Smith in a funk just by his presence. Wade with LeBron, best friends together, made Smith feel like an outsider. Wade was never comfortable in Cleveland. The Cavs respected his legacy and gave him the option of going back to the place he loves the most.
In a way, it was never supposed to be like this. And it was exactly supposed to be like this. Dwyane Wade is fifteen years in the process. Gestation takes forever sometimes.
In the summer of 2010, Wade and Chris Bosh came to Chicago on a free agent tour. It was a crazy few days of publicity and meetings and the possibility that the Bulls were going to get richer. LeBron James never made a Chicago trip, entertaining the Bulls brass on his home turf of Cleveland. After James chose Miami, Wade and Bosh fell in line as well. In year two of the Big Three, Wade volunteered to take a 1A role and the Heat won back to back titles.
This Heat team, as constructed, are not contenders. They fit the NBA profile many want to avoid. Not good enough for a conference final. Not bad enough for the lottery.
Everyone though trusts Erik Spoelstra. How can you not? Who on the Heat could make the starting rotation on any other playoff team? Their offense isn’t suited for this modern era of space the court and drain threes with efficiency. But Wade is a difference maker in a series, both with his talent and experience and willfulness, that’s obvious. His teammates are the lunch pail crowd. Hard working. Serious. And playing with a closer.
But this isn’t Miami 2012-13. No speed to the rim. No one’s is beating two defenders to get to the cup. No blur on the floor, close your eyes and you’ll miss it. The Heat had that once upon a time. They used it all up until they had squeezed it dry, like a lemon wrung empty of its bitter juice. This may not be as pretty but it may be more worthwhile. Solid. Dependable. Everyone on the same page. The Heat have a Jordan-esque player out of his prime. It’s good enough to win games. And be hero Wade County once again.