|Wade's start puts him in rare NBA air
Even Dwyane Wade was a bit astonished when he learned about the company he's in these days.
Out of the nearly 4,000 players who've suited up in NBA history, only two -- Oscar Robertson and Michael Jordan -- finished a season with the sort of numbers Wade is putting up so far this season for the Miami Heat. Healthy again, Wade is averaging a league-best 29.5 points, along with 7.5 a.ssists and 5 rebounds through 21 games.
And Wade wants more."Hopefully I can do better," Wade said. "For right now, it's always great to be in the conversation with anybody the likes of Michael Jordan and Oscar ... but they did do it for a whole season. Mine is only 20-some games in. I've got 60-some more to go."
So can he keep this up?
"I guess we'll see," Wade said.
Across the board, Wade is on his way to having his best season in a number of categories. His scoring is 2.1 points higher than his previous per-game average best. He's also on pace to establish new career-highs in field-goal shooting, 3-pointers made, steals and blocked shots, and is certainly the biggest reason why the Heat -- who were the NBA's laughingstock last year -- are off to a 12-9 start this season.
For Wade, the two injury-marred seasons that followed Miami's 2006 championship campaign are "dead and gone," just like the stigma of last year's 15-67 debacle.
"Health is a big part of all player's performance," Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. "This league is too good. If you're not healthy, you can't do it, I don't care how gifted you are. He's obviously healthy and he's one of the best players in the game right now.
"He does everything. Blocks shots, passes, gets steals, he can score so many different ways. He's healthy. You can see it."
By now, Wade's medical history is well-known to those who've followed his meteoric rise in Miami.
He dislocated his left shoulder in February 2007, a season where he battled sore knees as well. By the time he came back from the shoulder injury, the knees were shot, and so were Miami's chances of defending its championship. The Heat got into the playoffs, but with Wade dragging one leg around, got swept by the Chicago Bulls.
Last season was worse. Wade was limited to 51 games because of the myriad of injuries, the Heat fell apart, Shaquille O'Neal got traded and Pat Riley decided at season's end to hang up his whistle for the second and final time.
So before heading off to the Beijing Olympics, Wade adopted a catchphrase: "Something to prove."
Based on the way he's playing, that's more than just words.
"He's always been good, but what he's doing now, I don't know if anybody can play any better, at both ends," Charlotte coach Larry Brown said. "He makes everybody better every night and just plays at such a high level. It's kind of neat to watch."
Brown said that before his Bobcats faced the Heat on Monday night.
That night Wade scored 41 points -- his NBA-best seventh game of 35 or more already this season -- and added eight rebounds to lead Miami to a 100-96 win over the Bobcats, and punctuated the evening with a down-the-lane, poster-quality dunk of Charlotte's Emeka Okafor during the Heat's fourth-quarter comeback.
And with Wade, it's not just the stats. He's never played defense at this level. His passing seems smoother. His mid-range jumper is more effective than ever. Maybe most importantly, he's not tumbling to the court while trying some high-flying layup every few minutes, something he was guilty of quite a bit in his first five seasons.
"He's having an unbelievable year," Heat forward Shawn Marion said. "He's scoring the ball tremendously, he's doing a lot on defense, a lot on offense. When you talk about players coming out of the gate right now, he's definitely at the top of my list."
The Olympic experience played a huge part in this early season surge, Wade said.
He wasn't a starter in Beijing for Team USA, yet might have been the best player on the American roster. He led the red, white and blue in scoring, and his 27 points in the gold-medal game against Spain ensured that he wouldn't be flying home with another disappointing medal. Wade was part of the bronze-medal team in Athens in 2004 and tossed that prize into a closet, soon forgetting its whereabouts.
"I don't think there's any question, playing at that level this summer was a huge help for him coming into this season," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
If Wade finishes with anything close to the types of numbers he's posting now, he'll almost certainly be part of the MVP conversation -- like Olympic teammates LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul, along with Boston's Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, among others.
But unlike the Celtics, Lakers, Cavaliers and Hornets, the Heat aren't considered a championship-caliber team.
And Wade knows that will hurt his individual-award chances at season's end. So he's not even thinking about it, and insists he's just trying to keep the young Heat moving forward.
"I know I'm playing as well as anybody in the league," Wade said. "But I've got to continue to help this team get over the hump ... and it's going to take a lot of work."
Last edited by DEDOS; 12-10-2008 at 06:59 PM..