Updated: May 17, 2005, 7:43 PM ET
DAILY DIME: SPECIAL EDITION
Dwyane Wade makes the leap
Wade's cool confidence keeps him above the crowd.
He's reached that point in his life. You know, that point where it seems as if nothing can go wrong, where you actually feel that none of the things happening to you are happening to you.
He's there. People magazine's 50 Most Beautiful. Still playing when Melo, Bron, Bosh, cats that got drafted ahead of you, aren't. Hearing the name Jordan in conversations about you.
This isn't supposed to be happening to a kid from the south suburbs of Chicago. At least, not this soon. This is supposed to be years before Dwyane Wade was supposed to reach this Matrix point in his life. This flash point.
But it's happening now. Two years into an NBA career that many didn't think was going to jump off at all, let alone possibly end in the Hall of Fame. Right now we are looking at possibly the best pound-for-pound player in the NBA. Seriously. We're looking at a player who has not only put up numbers that change the way we look at him, but has refused to allow his team to lose while at the same time refusing to let the other team win. His 2005 playoff record right now is 8-0. If this were boxing, we'd be calling him Winky right about now.
He goes into battle as if he's going to war. Just look at him. Biceps, wrists, shins, ankles all padded up. He looks like Patrick Ewing in the Georgetown years. (Only he doesn't have Kyle Macy under him when he goes in for big dunks.)
It may be the un-PC thing to write: comparing his approach to the game to war, but no other analogy seems to digitize the picture so accurately. Unless we take it to superhero mode. But he's too young for that
He's been given the name Flash. Given to him by the god called Shaq. He, of course, accepted it. Has it etched on his signature Converse Icons. But unlike most names given to Justice Leaguers, his doesn't do him justice. Flash? That only tells a fraction of what he can do.
In his last two games he's literally carried the Heat to victories. Understand, this is the second round of the NBA playoffs not the middle of the regular season. This is the conference semis. He is playing against what is
excuse me, was
one of the four best teams left in the East. A team with three All-Stars (Larry Hughes will be one next year) and a kid who has an NCAA ring. He did what he did without the "as long as he's alive" MVP on the bench in custom-tailored six-button suits. He went to war without the general. Without MacArthur. He never let the other team experience victory once.
Last year he warned us that this was his time. April. May. June. Yeah, he let it be known by the way he "shook up the world" in last year's playoffs that he was primed to take these months over, a flash to be reckoned with. But once the B.I.G. signed on, we all figured that it was Wade who would complement, be the side dish to the main course. Well, after watching him drop a 31-9-6 game Thursday and a 42-7-4 game Saturday (preceded by a 31-15 game last Tuesday), it's safe to say that Wade is an entrée all by himself. Hell, he might be the whole restaurant. He's that Tru.
In two weeks, Wade has made the argument for O'Neal as MVP moot. He's made all of us who voted for "Shaq as the World's Best" question whether it is him that made Miami better, or has his sidekick gotten just that good? As one brother the other night said, "There's a difference between enforcing your skills and imposing your will."
Wade has become that difference.
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Wade's ability to maneuver at will allows teammates to find seams and for him to find them.
The first thing I see when I look at Dwyane Wade is the quiet calm and confidence he plays with. I have rarely seen that in a young player. He never seems to be out of control, and he always seems to be aware of time, score and necessity he knows what his team needs. He has an innate ability to take over, if that's what's required.
He's also as good as any player in the game at getting where he wants to go. With his quickness, his great handle and his explosiveness, he can hardly be guarded. On top of that, he has defined spots that he wants to get to on the floor, and that's where he goes. In that respect, he reminds me of Michael Jordan, who always seemed to get the shot he wanted. Like Jordan had, Wade has a great mid-range game.
In Wade's case, since he's the team's primary ball handler, this ability has a great effect on his teammates, who play off him and find gaps in the defense so he can get them the ball. He doesn't over-dribble, and therefore he keeps the team in a great flow. He doesn't force it. Rather, he makes the game easy for himself and his teammates.
I hope people really appreciate how special a talent and person this guy is as well as how special this generation is. There is a renaissance of the game, led by young, talented players Amare, LeBron, Carmelo, T-Mac and Wade, just to name a few who do more than just score. They also win.
Greg Anthony, ESPN Insider
Wade stands apart in the midrange game.
In early June 2003, I watched Dwyane Wade work out at Hoops Gym in Chicago before the Chicago pre-draft camp.
Grizzlies president Jerry West owned the 13th pick and was a Wade fan, and it looked like Wade might be going to Memphis. Scouts loved his athleticism and toughness, but they questioned his size, his jump shot and his ability to make the transition to the point.
Here's what I wrote on June 4, 2003, after watching Wade work out with Michael Jordan's trainer, Tim Grover.
"Wade has arguably the best first step of anyone in the draft.
While some are obsessing over Wade's ability to play the point, I'm not sure he has to make that transition. He has freakishly long arms, an explosive vertical and the ability to get to the basket at will. He's a tenacious defender and hard, hard worker. He isn't your protototypical two guard, but he really grows on you in workouts. He's got a great feel for the game that just can't be taught."
By draft night, I had moved Wade up, projecting him as the seventh pick in the draft to his hometown Chicago Bulls. He ended up going No. 5 on draft night to the Heat. Here was our reaction:
"Wade was the most ready to contribute now, and that was important to Riley. He should be able to step in right away and play together with Eddie Jones. The only knock on the pick is that Wade won't give them much-needed perimeter shooting. But his athleticism, defense and maturity make up for that."
We gave them an A- for the pick. High praise, sure. But none of us had a clue that two years later he'd be walking in Jordan's footsteps.
Chad Ford, ESPN Insider
Excerpted from the Nov. 8, 2004, issue of ESPN The Magazine:
Dwyane Wade admits he was surprised at first by the speed of the pro game. What was more surprising was how quickly he adjusted. "I wondered when I'd get my first dunk," he says. "Then in the first game, I had four." By the end of the season his total was 64 jams in 61 games. That kind of airtime stands out on a small forward's résumé. It's all the more impressive for a career two guard who played most of his minutes last season at the point.
And again, these are not your standard just-finish-the-play flushes. Against the Nuggets in February, Wade drove right, shed Andre Miller on the baseline, then curled underneath the basket before lifting off for a resounding left-side reverse jam over Nene. The 7-footer failed to get his hands up and went limp in midair, sure signs of a defender being caught off guard. Against the Raptors in November, Wade grabbed a carom with his right hand and flushed it home as he was moving to his right. Throw in any of his two-handed alley-oop flourishes in the sophomore/rookie game on All-Star Weekend, particularly the ones he caught well above the white box, and you begin to understand the supreme fan appeal of Wade's particular flair. The truth is, no player's slams have so jazzed crowds or spiced up nightly highlights since Vince Carter's pre-injury aerial assaults, despite what Wade may say to the contrary. ("No, no, I'm not on that level," he insists.)
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Pat Riley knew little of Wade until he watched Marquette's Elite Eight matchup with Kentucky in 2003. But as he grinded off the flights on his StairMaster, he noticed that Wade approached the game cerebrally, eluding defenders with imagination, not just quickness. His ability to defend four positions further spoke to the depth of his basketball knowledge as much as to his athletic ability. One game, and Riles knew how he was going to use the team's No. 5 pick. "He's an intelligent basketball player and a fast learner," says Riley. "His unselfishness and understanding of the team concept are what make him great."
Wade's 29 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists just the third triple-double in NCAA Tournament history didn't hurt either.
* * * * *
He's always been one to keep it simple. Wade grew up on the south side of Chicago, but his parents separated when he was 8, so he took lots of 45-minute bus rides with his sister, Tragil, to his father's house in the suburbs. For a while, his most vivid memories of that time were of the one-on-one matchups on the court with Dwyane Sr.
Then, on one of those visits, he met a 9-year-old girl named Siohvaughn. At first, she was just another kid in the neighborhood. But when,
at 13, Dwyane moved in with his dad, she became his best friend. Today, she is his wife.
Jerry Bembry, ESPN The Magazine
Enough of all this talk about Shaq as the most "dominant" player in the NBA.
Enough of all this talk about how he's the one who turned the Heat around.
Where's the love for Mr. Dwyane Wade? In fact, where's was the Dwyane-Wade-for-MVP campaign this season? The Daddy cast such a shadow, we forgot to take note of the unstoppable so-called number two playing alongside him.
Check the numbers on Wade 2004-05: 24.1 ppg, 6.8 apg, 5.2 rpg. Every number is spectacular, and every one is up significantly from 2004 (16.2, 4.5, 4.0). Yeah, O'Neal opened some things up for him, no doubt, but you know what else happened? Wade made the leap, he matured, became more confident, became, dare we say it, a dominant player.
And you know what else, he opened things up for the Big Fella, too.
He played more minutes, and he played more games, and he ran the floor and moved the ball a whole lot more, and he hit from the stripe a whole lot more. And when the playoffs rolled around (just as he did last year as a rookie), he turned it all up a notch.
Right now, you could find plenty of folks who would tell you that Dwyane Wade is the best player in basketball. Shaq's the thunder, but Flash is the lightning, the lightning storm, and he's raining down on his opponents now with the quiet, brilliant ferocity of an MVP scorned.
Not one first-place vote? Somebody's going to have to pay for that. Indy? Detroit? You want some?
Eric Neel, ESPN.com Page 2
Wade's spectacular rocket rides to the basket in the first two rounds only highlighted his fantastic all-around play.
Perhaps we shouldn't have been surprised by Dwyane Wade's scintillating performances in Games 3 and 4 against the Wizards. When the Heat have played without Shaquille O'Neal this season, Wade has taken his game to another level.
In the 10 contests this season in which Wade has played and Shaq hasn't, the second-year guard is averaging 27.1 points per game and shooting 52.5 percent from the field. Both figures are well above his season norms of 24.1 points and 47.8 percent. Throw out a 23-minute walk-through in a meaningless game against Charlotte in the season's final week and the numbers get even better: 28.6 points on 53.0 percent shooting.
While most of us in the media have latched on to the idea that Shaq's arrival has made Wade better, the numbers suggest the exact opposite. Playing without Shaq seems to gives Flash more room to operate, thus making him even more effective.
John Hollinger, ESPN Insider
Dwyane Wade is quickly becoming one of the NBA's elite players.
But does he rank up there with Kobe, LeBron, T-Mac, Vince Carter and the rest of the league's superstars?
Have some fun and rank the top players with SportsNation's Player Ranker.
The wise men always told us the next Michael would not be manufactured, that he would just burst upon the scene without aid from the media's overzealous hype machine.
"Just let it happen," they said calmly as everyone from Harold Miner to Kobe Bryant was anointed as "Next."
I don't know yet if Dwyane Wade is the one, and I love LeBron James. But it's getting harder by the possession to write off Wade's historic production as the result of being Shaq's mate especially when Shaq is on the sidelines in a tent-sized, three-piece suit.
And dig this: Miami's unassuming kid with the Barry Sanders moves (yes, they're that sick) was not manufactured. Eerie.
Saturday, in an astonishing display that made his All-Star-caliber opponents Gilbert Arenas and Larry Hughes look pedestrian and maybe I'm being kind considering the way he split their fruitless double-team before sinking a bank shot in the second quarter Wade put 42 on the Wizards in leading Miami to a 99-95 win and back to South Beach on a broom.
Chris Broussard, ESPN The Magazine
See full story
Western Conference Semifinals
Phoenix 2, Dallas 2
Game 5: Wed., 9 ET, at Phoenix, TNT
San Antonio 2, Seattle 2
Game 5: Tues., 9:30 ET, at San Antonio, TNT
Eastern Conference Semifinals
Miami 4, Washington 0
Miami wins series, awaits IND-DET winner
Detroit 2, Indiana 2
Game 5: Tues., 7 ET, at Detroit, TNT
• See conference semifinals schedule