Thursday, August 11, 2011

Heat’s Dwyane Wade must opt for rest, not risk

Photograph by: Ronald Martinez, Getty Images
BY GREG COTE, MCCLATCHY-TRIBUNE INFORMATION SERVICES, MIAMI — It might be all business, a player advising possible suitors he is available for hire for, say, oh, $2 million a month and grow his global brand all at once.

It might be simply that the man has a basketball jones — that a player got to play.

It might be any of these or a combination, but in any case, it might be time to start taking Dwyane Wade seriously.

"I’m going to play basketball this year," the Heat veteran told The Associated Press on Tuesday while on business in New York. "I don’t know where, but I love the game so much that I will play it."

Is he posturing?

Previously, Wade’s response to the ongoing and perhaps lengthy NBA lockout was to say he was "open" to the idea of maybe playing elsewhere if his Miami season did not begin as scheduled. Now that possibility seems to have segued toward certainty.

It still could be posturing. After all, the last thing NBA commissioner David Stern and club owners want to see is their most valuable commodities — franchise, marquee players — scattered across globe, risking injury in foreign leagues.

Heat fans should hope it is all smoke, especially in Wade’s case.

Wade approaches his ninth season and 30th birthday. He has missed 107 NBA games because of injuries. Shoulder, knee, ribs, hip, wrist — it is harsh to call him injury-prone, but fair to say his driving, aerial game lends itself to hard falls and injuries.

The recent NBA Finals against Dallas marked the first time in Wade’s career he heard media questions about his age, his aging. Those questions will only increase. He is at a point where rest and keeping his mileage down should be paramount.

Maximum-contract players such as Wade can weather this lockout, especially the smart businessmen like him. Wade’s Nike and T-Mobile deals are cash cows. He has a deal with Hublot, the Swiss luxury jeweler, so lavish the company just put out a limited edition of 500 Wade-signature watches. Retail price: $27,500. Each.

Not the right time

So you won’t see D-Wade bagging groceries at Publix as the lockout drags on. He doesn’t need the money. And shouldn’t need a limited-edition Hublot watch to tell him the lockout is the right time to rest not risk his body, to not take on what amounts to the second job that playing in China would be.

I much prefer the way teammate LeBron James is dealing with the lockout. No doubt Micky Arison, Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra prefer it, too.

James has said he has no interest in playing overseas, and instead is quietly taking it upon himself to stay in shape and get better. Most recently, while the Marlins season droned on and football unfurled, James travelled to Houston for private workouts with Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon to help develop a low-post game to feather his repertoire.

Have you noticed some of the things LeBron has done the past week or so?

He donated $240,000 to the Boys & Girls Club in Akron, Ohio. Participated in his annual charity bicycle event there supporting education. Expressed optimism the NBA lockout would not last into the coming season. Went on Twitter to defend Tim Tebow against what he thought undue criticism. Committed to play for the U.S. team in the 2012 Olympics. And worked with Olajuwon to improve his overall game.

All of those six positives might be considered steps in image-rebuilding, yet the only one to get much attention was his support of Tebow, which — of course: he’s LeBron — drew mostly criticism. Retired defensive tackle Kris Jenkins, on ESPN’s NFL Live, told James (albeit not to his face) to mind his own business and offered the lovely parting shot, "’re choking when the pressure is on." Perhaps it is expressly because the general vilification of James continues that I feel compelled to point out the good he is doing, both off the court and to help the Heat on it once the lawyers say it’s OK.

James is the one of Miami’s Big 3 who seems to be doing the most to make himself better as the scheduled late-September start of training camp draws ever closer.

Since the NBA Finals ended seven weeks ago, Wade has mostly been in the news for a promotional tour of China and for attending fashion shows in Europe.

Chris Bosh? Well, he honeymooned, and just unveiled a new tattoo that covers his entire back.

Juxtapose Bosh’s leisure time and Wade’s business maneuvers with James, alone in a gym with Olajuwon, trying to add a low-post game to his skill set.

This isn’t a criticism of the newly betrothed and tatted Bosh nor of the business-savvy of Wade but rather in praise of James, who said, "When you’re not victorious, it’s about how you bounce back" — and is showing his teammates the way.

The idea of James developing a low-post presence should be scary to opponents. Back to the basket, he receives the ball in close and has the power and moves to reach the rim, as well as the passing skills to kick it back out to an open teammate.

Just the idea of LeBron feeling the need to improve is, well, impressive.

"I’m doing whatever it takes to just become a better basketball player," he told ESPN. "Just trying to critique my game, become more of a complete player."

Working on his own (or in this case, with Olajuwon), is smarter than Wade casting for easy riches in China, where the competition would be inferior but the wear and tear and risk of injury would be real.

The Heat — as much as any team in the league — should hope all the China talk and ominous lockout talk becomes moot, that the NBA season won’t be lost.

Perhaps only the aging, creaking Boston Celtics would be hurt as much as Miami if the lockout canceled the entire season, which Stern and players union chief Billy Hunter seem to consider a possibility based on current gloom.

In Miami’s case, a locked-out season would erase fully 25 percent of the Big 3-era window of opportunity. That’s a large chunk of this supposed dynasty gone away, considering only four seasons of the Big?3 are assured.

The hopefulness LeBron expressed this week was welcome, refreshing.

"Right now, I’m preparing for an NBA season," he said. "I’m very optimistic."

He is preparing more than figuratively. He is preparing to come back better.

May his teammates do the same.


(c) 2011, The Miami Herald.

Visit The Miami Herald Web edition on the World Wide Web at

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.


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