Heat players discuss their relationship
MIAMI -- Sitting in their traditional seats in their traditional setting, speaking to the media side-by-side, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James gave an impromptu breakdown of their developing relationship Tuesday.
In preparing for Game 2 against the Boston Celtics Tuesday night, the All-Stars explained their process for working together that has led the Heat to success in the second half of the season and ultimately a 1-0 lead in their series against the veteran Celtics.
"From Day 1 we kind of understood even from our teammates that we were going to be the two guys that everyone looked at to see how we reacted to things," Wade said. "To see how we handled the change, to see how we reacted to playing with each other. We realized that and it is something we communicated and talked about from the beginning, that we had to be always on the same page. And if we weren't on the same page, always communicate with each other. Having each other's back in bad times or good times."
That has included doing joint media sessions after practices, shootarounds and games. That isn't often seen in the NBA but is emblematic of Wade's and James' decision to attempt to present a united front this season, and also have each other's back in often delicate interactions with the media.
Getting there, the players said in some surprisingly revealing comments, has taken some behind-the-scenes communication.
"It's not a bed of roses with me and [Wade] and [Chris Bosh]. We get on each other if we feel like they're not doing they're job," James said. "We feel like it is constructive criticism that we need to have for one another to have a productive team. Anytime you have new teammates, it doesn't matter if you're friends or not, you have to realize certain people react to certain situations. Some people can be yelled at and still play, some people you have to do it in a certain way."
There have been numerous examples during recent games that underscored this process. In the Heat's Game 5 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers to close out the first-round series last week, Wade stayed with 76ers guard Jodie Meeks defensively to prevent a potential game-winning 3-pointer in the final moments of the game.
Earlier this season in Chicago, Wade didn't stay home and attempted to help James on defense against Derrick Rose. Wade's man, Luol Deng, hit the game-winning 3-pointer as a result. James was furious at Wade and let him know at the time.
When the situation arose again, the Heat successfully defended a similar play as James forced Andre Iguodala into a miss, with Wade staying at home on his man. Wade said he'd learned from the situation against the Bulls and didn't want to get another "scalding look" from James.
"There's been times where he's gotten on me for something and vice versa," Wade said.
"If I make a mistake and he calls me out on it ... I might say you're right. Sometimes I won't agree with him and I'll say, 'I don't agree,' and we'll move on. We'll come back later and we'll discuss it. We're not always patting each other on the back. Our job is to get the best out of each other so when we see an opportunity to do that, we have to be leaders and step up and do that."
In the Heat's Game 1 victory over the Celtics on Sunday, James took a hard foul during the testy second half. As James lay on the court, perhaps with the intention of milking the injury, as he often has in similar situations earlier in his career, Wade came over and picked him up. Moments such as those continue to illustrate their complex relationship.
It has showed in the Heat's play as James was the leading scorer but eventually came to yield control of much of the offense to Wade in the fourth quarter of games. After being the top fourth-quarter scorer in the league the past three seasons, James was second on his own team to Wade this season. The changes have helped the Heat win 20 of their past 24 games heading into Tuesday night.
And, apparently, has gotten the two stars comfortable in talking about their chemistry and their relationship.
"People forget me and LeBron were the best of friends before we started playing together," Wade said.
"Actually, we got criticized for being friends and hanging out before games with each other. Back in the day the Lakers didn't do that, Boston didn't do that," he said. "Well, today obviously that worked because we're here together. So we have that bond and it started eight years ago."
Brian Windhorst covers the Miami Heat for ESPN.com.
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