The last few seasons have not been kind to Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade.
The perennial All-Star has dealt with numerous injuries as he’s gotten older. In the 2013-2014 season, Wade played in only 54 games and averaged 19 points, 4.7 assists and 4.5 rebounds in 32.9 minutes. In the postseason that year, Wade averaged 17.8 points, 3.9 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game to help the Heat reach the NBA Finals, as LeBron James closed out the San Antonio Spurs in Game 7 to give Wade another NBA championship. For all that Wade brought to the court, you could tell that he wasn’t playing at his full potential — not because of effort or a loss of natural instincts, but because he couldn’t get any lift on his jump shot.
Last season, the injury bug bit Wade once again. He was able to play in only 62 games, and the Heat went on to miss the NBA playoffs. Wade’s field goal percentage dropped from 54.5 to 47, even as his scoring went up to 21 points per game. Many people across the NBA thought that the 32-year-old Wade was finished. His numbers were the product of inefficiency on a roster without LeBron James. What real future existed for the three-time NBA champion?
This season has been a different story for both Wade and the Heat, although a few weeks ago, such a claim couldn’t have been made very confidently.
Miami is currently sitting in fifth place in the Eastern Conference with a 29-22 record, only a half-game behind the Atlanta Hawks for third place in the conference and first in the Southeast Division. One reason why the Heat have played better this season is that Wade has found the fountain of youth. He has played up to the one-year, $20 million contract he signed in the offseason to allow the Heat to lock up forward Chris Bosh to a long-term deal.
This season, Wade is averaging 18.7 points, 4.7 assists and 4.2 rebounds in 30.2 minutes per game. His play on the court has earned him another All-Star Game appearance. Currently, the Heat have won four out of their last five games. In each of those wins, including the last two against the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday and the Charlotte Hornets on Friday, Wade has been instrumental.
On Friday night against Charlotte, Wade turned back the clock in an efficient 22-point performance on 11-20 shooting from the field. He dished out five assists and grabbed three rebounds. Wade scored majority of his points inside the three-point line, which is entirely typical of his line of attack. Throughout the game, Wade was playing in the flow of the Heat’s offense, taking the ball to the rack, knocking down elbow jump shots and hitting the fadeaway with ease. Looking at Wade’s splits this season, he has been efficient at the rim (62.9 percent) and reasonably accurate between 3 to 10 feet (45.5 percent).
Wily veteran that he is, Wade is showing that he can still create his own shot. Moreover, don’t let his age fool you. As he showed Nic Batum and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist on Friday night, the Flash can still throw down a posterizing dunk:
Wade also made a key defensive play late in the game. With 11 seconds to go in the fourth quarter and Miami holding a 96-93 lead, Hornets forward Marvin Williams was trying to get the ball to Kemba Walker. Wade stepped in between Walker and the ball, dove on the floor, grabbed the ball and passed it to forward Luol Deng for the game-sealing layup, sending Miami home with a 98-93 victory.
The Heat now face a tough matchup on Super Bowl Sunday. They will take on the Los Angeles Clippers on ABC (2:05 Eastern time). Miami will attempt to avenge a Jan. 13 loss to the Clippers at the Staples Center, where Wade finished with 16 points, eight rebounds, and four assists, but with seven turnovers. Wade must take care of the ball as he has done in Miami’s last five games, a period in which he has averaged only 2.8 turnovers per game.
For the Heat to win the Southeast Division and ultimately get the third seed in the Eastern Conference behind Cleveland and Toronto, Wade must stay healthy. So far, Father Time has been grateful to Wade this season.
Heat fans hope the clock doesn’t strike midnight on his Cinderella season.