As Goes Wade, So Go The Heat

Forgotten in the drama resulting from the team’s down (and now decidedly up) season, and the media circus surrounding the actions of his teammates, coaches and team president, is the notion that, until the season began, everyone regarded the Miami Heat as Dwyane Wade’s team.

Of all the unknowns going into the 2010–2011 season, his steady hand was the one given: Wade’s the player with the championship ring in Miami, won despite being surrounded by a supporting cast of malcontent NBA travelers like Shaq (who needed Kobe Bryant for his three rings), Gary Payton (who had yapped and sulked his way off of his two prior teams) and Antoine Walker (who spent $112 million on cars and pizza). In that championship series, versus the Dallas Mavericks, Wade finally rose into the upper echelon of NBA superstars.

If reports are to be believed — and if we stop believing reports, we’re curtains as a nation — he was also the orchestrator of this deal back when he, James and Bosh were playing for the Olympic squad in 2008. In that James has subsequently been proven to be desirous of a sidekick role, and Bosh has proven to be an occasionally really good third guy, I’d say that you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out what happened.

But then, three minutes into the preseason, Wade injured his hamstring — a malady usually due to too much orchestrating and not enough conditioning — and overnight, the offense began to run through James the way the Cavaliers did for several years.

Simultaneously, No. 6 also became the emotional fulcrum of the squad, and the lead proponent of the preposterous “us against the world” leitmotif that has served the team so poorly this season.

What’s clear is that, when the Heat has won this season, Wade has played a large role in it; and when they’ve lost, he’s usually been the invisible man. But he’s been banged up, with sore everythings on occasion. Although the notion now sounds ludicrous, it wasn’t so long ago that there was some question as to whether or not he would ever regain his status as a preeminent player.

So, now, 25 games in, the team has been finally been delivering. Wade has begun to assert himself, as evidenced by the team’s nine-game winning streak and a new-found toughness on the defensive end.The most remarkable part of Wade’s renaissance is that he’s been rebounding like a guy half-a-foot taller, averaging 11 boards a game over a three-game stretch. But he’s also been more vocal, more apt to look for his own shot and command the ball. He’s become the Dwayne Wade that the Heat had grown to expect, and not a moment too soon.

Media reports have tried to pinpoint the exact moment the switch happened. Some say it was an angry team meeting , but I think they are overanalyzing it. It boils down to Wade finally being healthy. And his Oscar Robertson-like performance three nights ago versus the Golden State Warriors indicates that the prognosis for the team is equally as positive.

Tony Gervino is a New York City-based editor and writer obsessed with honing his bio to make him sound quirky. He can also be found here.

Photo by Keith Allison.