There has been a growing sentiment across the NBA that Dwyane Wade is deteriorating. Doubters, from Charles Barkley to the average fan, continue to push the notion that Wade has lost a step in his game and his best days are behind him.
It's kind of sad watching Dwyane Wade anymore, he's an afterthought and has clearly lost a step. Knees are shot.— Matthew Wells (@heyitsrealdeal) December 7, 2012
After James enormous 2012, which included regular-season MVP, Finals MVP, first championship and Olympic gold medal, LeBron has not only become the unrivaled top dog in Miami, but arguably the biggest name in all of American professional sports.
All the attention is focused on James. When the media speaks with Heat players after practice, it is James who is mobbed by reporters.
For the better part of the last decade, Wade was the guy who reporters flocked to after practice or after a game in Miami. Wade’s drop in the Heat’s hierarchy was never more apparent than when James was announced Sports Illustrated’s 2012 Sportsman of the Year earlier this month.
As the media surrounded James, Wade could be seen (jokingly) jumping up and down behind the reporters and interjecting with comments, trying to remind them that he won the same award in 2006. But, the media was more interested in James’ accomplishment than Wade’s past accolades and seemingly dimming spotlight.
So, with Wade’s spotlight dimming, will the 2006 Finals MVP accept a background role with the Heat?
The Beginning of Wade’s Fall in Miami’s Hierarchy
The perception change of Dwyane Wade’s status in Miami began sometime in March of this year, when it was all but clear that LeBron James was going to become the first player in Heat franchise history to win the MVP award, his third overall.
As Wade was limited by injuries, missing 17 games in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season, James was thriving in Miami. He carried the Heat for the entire year, averaging 27.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game, while posting career highs in field-goal percentage (53.1) and three-point percentage (36.2).
Miami finished the season 14-1 in games that James played and Wade did not.
Then, as we all know, James had one of the best individual playoff performances in recent memory, leading the Heat to the 2012 title. By the time Miami had finished off Oklahoma City in five games in the Finals, there was no question who was the Heat’s alpha male.
That’s not to say that Wade wasn’t instrumental in the Heat’s title run, it’s just that he was so overshadowed by James performance that people almost forgot about him.
Wade’s 22.8 points on 46 percent shooting, 5.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game in the postseason were great, but James 30.3 points on 50 percent shooting, 9.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game completely trumped Wade’s numbers.
Wade was forced to be the No. 2 option as James showcased his utter dominance throughout the playoffs, and all Wade could do was stand by and watch the brilliance.
Where Dwyane Wade Stands Now
After Wade’s highly publicized knee surgery in the offseason, people questioned if Wade would come back strong this season.
Wade has now had multiple knee surgeries and a host of other injuries throughout his 10-year career.
And once again, he is suffering from nagging injuries this year. Wade has already missed three games this season—two because of a sprained left foot—and has also had problems with his finger and ankle.
There are three things you can always count on: Jesus' unconditional love, a Pie lonely tweet and Dwyane Wade being hurt.— sucraM (@Basko4Prez) December 7, 2012
Oddly enough, Miami is 3-0 in Wade’s absence.
Obviously, the Heat are in no way, shape or form better off without the two-time NBA champ, but stats like the one above certainly alter the perception of his effectiveness.
It also doesn’t help that Wade is averaging career lows in assists (4.3), rebounds (3.8), steals (1.1) and blocks (0.6). Furthermore, Wade’s 20.2 points per game are the lowest since his rookie season.
Wade’s Player Efficiency Rating of 21.55 is not even top 20 in the league and is the worst it’s been since Miami’s Big Three joined forces in 2010. Wade sits behind both James and Chris Bosh, whose 22.08 rating is good enough for 18th in the NBA.
Wade is undoubtedly viewed as the Heat’s second option, and on some nights even as the team’s third option, behind Bosh.
Wade has only led Miami in scoring five times this season, and with LeBron James posting 105 more shot attempts than his buddy so far, it’s evident that the offense is run through James.
This can be a tough reality to accept for a superstar, especially one of Wade’s caliber.
So, will Wade ultimately accept his regression in the Heat’s offense and superstar structure?
At nearly 31-years-old, Dwyane Wade doesn’t have much of a choice.
However, it’s not Wade’s age or even LeBron James seemingly increasing supremacy that will cause Wade to accept a background role with the Miami Heat.
It’s the fact that Wade is an excellent teammate, puts winning as his first priority and is completely selfless. He has the necessary IQ and humble personality that admits it’s James time and that for the Heat to be successful, James needs to run the show.
Wade is a rare breed of superstar who is willing to relinquish his role as the team’s alpha male and can accept that his teammate’s game is better than his.
Not only that, Wade has already shown that he has accepted a background role in Miami. Wade has openly admitted that LeBron is better than him, and he has expressed happiness for James winning the MVP, the Sportsman award and all the success that he’s garnered recently.
Wade showcased not only last season, but throughout the 2012 playoffs, that he will let the team run through James and that he accepts being in the background.
And it’s not like Wade is just some 15-year veteran, whose sole purpose is to provide leadership and advice to younger players, and occasionally contribute.
No—Wade still produces at a high level and can be the Heat’s leading scorer on any given night. It’s just that he’s in a rare situation of being a superstar on a team with the biggest superstar in all of basketball.
So, Wade has and will continue to accept a background role because, quite simply, he is the consummate professional.
And as history has proven, Wade as the No. 2 option works out quite well for the Miami Heat.