PHILADELPHIA – Dwyane Wade sat alone, wrapping his 36-year old knees in ice long after the Miami Heat practiced Sunday afternoon at Temple University. The media throng which covers the Heat seemed more focused on Hassan Whiteside’s virtual no-show in the first game of this playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers and the adjustments the team would have to make to make this series competitive.
Wade’s paltry 19 minutes in Game 1 didn’t even register as a significant storyline at this stage in his career. That’s about what he’d been playing since rejoining the Heat after a midseason trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Anything more he could give them than that was seen as a bonus, not something the Heat could count on.
Fellow Heat lifers Alonzo Mourning and Juwan Howard each came over to him as he wrapped his knees and stopped for a conversation. Wade will be joining them as Heat emeriti soon enough. Always welcome around the team, always a part of the family … once their playing careers were over.
I asked him why he was wrapping his own knees in ice. The Heat have plenty of trainers for tasks like that. Wade laughed and said, “I like doing this myself.”
After all, wow many more times would he wrap those knees in ice after a practice? No, if these are indeed the last days of his Hall of Fame career, Wade is determined to do everything exactly the way it should be done.
Which is how he approached Monday’s game against the Sixers. The Heat had brought him back for games just like this. Down in a playoff series, needing a win at all costs and desperate for the type of calming, veteran leadership the 3-time NBA champion can provide.
Wade delivered a throwback 28-point performance in 26 minutes off the bench to propel the Heat to a 113-103 win and snap the Sixers 17-game win streak.
“A lot of people think that if you do decide to go out it’s because you weren’t supposed to be able to play no more. It’s not always supposed to be that,” Wade told ESPN after the game.
Wade said he will take time after the season to decide whether to retire or return to the Heat for one more season. “Just taking time to think, that’s all I’m doing,” Wade said. “Taking time to think and looking at every angle and what’s the best situation for me to be in. That’s all. It’s a lot of different, it’s a lot of different things that come into play.”
If he returns for another season, he says it will only be as a member of the Heat.
“Someone like Vince (Carter) can go anywhere and play. Every year he can go to do a different location,” Wade said. “I can’t hop to here and there. So it makes it a little tougher.”
Wade already did that, leaving the Heat two summers ago to sign with the Chicago Bulls. He signed with Cleveland this fall after working out a buyout of his contract in Chicago.
“I had my little college tour,” Wade joked. “It’s like a kid whose parents don’t want them to go out of state, but they go out anyway and they come back home.
“I feel like my experience was what I needed. I feel like it made me appreciate, it made the city of Miami appreciate everything.”
The city and the team definitely appreciated what Wade did Monday night.
Dwyane Wade knocks a turnaround jumper with Robert Covington in his face.
Philadelphia led Game 2 by as many as nine points in the first quarter. But then Wade checked in, and he single-handedly turned the game around in the first half, outscoring the Sixers by himself 21-20 over the final 15 minutes of the half.
When Philadelphia made a 21-7 run in the fourth quarter to close to within two points with 4:29 left in the period, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra brought Wade back in. From there, Wade immediately went into closer mode:
A steal off of Philadelphia forward Dario Saric that led to a dunk
A pass to a cutting James Johnson for a dunk on the very next possession
A key offensive rebound following a Goran Dragic missed layup that led to a second-chance scoring opportunity for Dragic, forcing a 76ers timeout with 2:25 left and Miami leading 104-96
And then a 23-foot jumper over Ben Simmons to seal the win with 47.9 seconds left, trash talking Philadelphia native Kevin Hart afterwards.
You can’t come to Miami…💍🙅🏾♂️ https://t.co/HAHNZ4z1px
— DWade (@DwyaneWade) April 17, 2018
Dwyane Wade hits a nice jumper over Ben Simmons and then stares down Philly fans Kevin Hart on the sidelines.
“That’s what defines Dwyane Wade,” Spoelstra said. “We’ve seen that so much before over his career and he’s not going to be logging the 40 minutes a game that he used to. But in these compact minutes, he can settle the group with his experience and his level of experience just to add a little bit of calm for some of our young guys.
“It was meant to be this kind of game for every single minute tonight, he needed to reach back and have one of those games. He has a great maturity and great presence to understand that it might be different the next game and facilitate, he will do that as well. It was a very calming effect on the rest of our guys.”
Heat veteran Udonis Haslem sits at the locker next to Wade. Monday night he marveled at the throwback performance.
“He’s a guy that lives in moments,” Haslem said. “When you think about the career that he’s had. There’s those moments. And when we’re in those moments, there’s no person I’d rather have on my side than him.”
The Heat brought Wade for nights just like this. He’s no longer quick enough to earn his old nickname, Flash. If anything, his value now is in settling the team, slowing things down, and mentoring the Heat’s younger players.
“He’s still one of the best players, but he slows everyone down,” Heat forward Josh Richardson said. “When he has the ball, it’s like he has his own pace. He never gets sped up … I hope I get to that point one day.”
According to ESPN Stats and Information, Wade was 7-for-8 on midrange jumpers Monday night and 11-16 overall. The only three Sixers defenders who were able to force him into a miss were Dario Saric (0-1), JJ Redick (1-4) and Marco Belinelli (2-3). Wade made all eight shots he took with other defenders on him, including both shots over 6-foot-10 Ben Simmons.
“I mean he’s my height, I have no idea how (Wade shoots over Simmons),” said 6-foot-4 Heat guard Tyler Johnson. “I think it’s just years. The experience of seeing it. They’ve thrown every defense at him that he could ever see.”
On this night, no defense, not even Father Time, was going to stop Dwyane Wade.