I Can't Stand Watching D-Wade on the Cavs
With a sample size of three, I'm already not liking what I'm seeing. Dwyane Tyrone Wade Jr, my favorite NBA player not named MJ or Hakeem, is now just another cog in the Lebron machine. Last time it was different. In 2010, when the Heatles were born, Wade was still a top 3 player in the league, with memories of 2006 not too far in the rearview. Lebron came to him, not the other way around, and despite the revisionist tales already mounting, if LBJ just played a little bit better in the 2011 Finals, Wade would have dragged the Kang, Bosh, and the rest to a title in year one. "Taking a back seat" not required.
Now, it's different. Wade is older. Not super old. But old. And while the man still averaged 18.3 points in his ill-advised stint with the Bulls last year, he shot a career low 43.4 percent from the floor. The Bulls blew a 2-0 lead against the #1 seeded Celtics after Rondo went down, with Jimmy Butler and a hobbled Wade having nothing really to say about it. However, the year prior, Wade led a young Heat team within one game of the Eastern Conference Finals, with vintage playoff performances against the Charlotte Hornets and the Toronto Raptors.
That was in the spring of 2016, only about a year and a half ago. Now all I see is Wade standing immobile behind the arc, while the ball whips around to Love or Korver or Crowder or any of the other specialists that Lebron has standing at attention. Wade has a paltry 17 points to his name through three games. Maybe he's just done, huh.
Last time, from 2012 on at least, Lebron was certainly the best player on the Heat, but Wade was next in line. When Lebron left, that rank was said to have passed to Bosh (if we're to believe pay equals pay grade), but after health sidelined the former Raptor, Wade was once again was undisputed king. In Chicago? He and Jimmy.
Now Wade is telling ESPN that he's not sure what his role on the Cavs is. I don't blame him but I also don't believe him. He has a role. It's to make the best player in the world's job easier. Nothing else matters. If he wanted to be at the top of the pecking order (at least in pay grade but sadly not in pay), he should have stayed in Miami. Remember, Wade came to Lebron this time around and he's 35 years old.
Still, he's not a 40-year old Vince Carter or even a post achilles Kobe Bryant. He still has some game. His (new normal of) health is fine. But he shouldn't start, and no not because perennial 6th man and livewire J.R. Smith was pissed and the media entertained the tantrum. It's because Wade is a rhythm player accustomed to having the ball in his hands. On opening night, I saw him try to take matters into his own hands a few times, slowly backing the ball down for one of his patented turnarounds most of which flubbed.
It almost seemed defiant, a sharp contrast to Lebron's authoritative drive and three point kick outs which allowed the Cavs to even keep up with the mighty Warriors at times. Wade wanted to play his game, newfangled metrics be damned. But here's a stat: Through three games, Wade is averaging 8.3 FGA, around half of what he got with the Bulls last year, nevermind his 17.4 FGA for his career.
Yep, in those moments, it didn't just feel like Wade wanted more shots, he wanted his shots. Playing him like he did in the 08 Olympics as a sparkplug off the bench where he was the squad's leading scorer might help with this. Wade has always had strong chemistry with bigs, having played with one of the game's best early in his career, and I think he would pair well with Thompson. I also believe Wade and Jeff Green the enigma would play well alongside each other.
Wade can still close the 4th quarter with what eventually will be an ending unit that will include Isaiah Thomas, but you're not maximizing his talents when he's just another specialist parked outside the three point line like Korver or at the ready for lobs like Tristan Thompson. I thought Wade's off the ball ability would come into play more and allow more success with the starting unit, but either guys aren't looking for him, or better yet, Wade isn't looking for those opportunities.
Move him to the bench and let's see what happens. I'm watching the Cavs this year. So strange.