September 17, 2014
Disappointed Bulls fans still miffed that Dwyane Wade teased them in free agency in 2010 keep waiting for him to hobble to the finish of his glorious career. But the former Richards High School star still is going strong.
And get this: He’s getting stronger.
The Miami Heat enters its game Sunday against the Bulls at the United Center with Wade, 32, on a roll. In seven games since the All-Star break, Wade is averaging 22.4 points and six assists and is shooting 58.3 percent from the field.
Wade reveled in being the second-oldest player at the All-Star Game last month in New Orleans. It was his 10th consecutive All-Star appearance — not bad for a player who has shown the wear-and-tear of 11 years in the NBA.
‘‘To be [an All-Star] 10 years in a row and still be a star, it’s cool,’’ Wade said. ‘‘I’m enjoying it.’’
Give the oft-injured Wade credit for modifying his game to fit the realities of a bruising career. He’s kind of like the Brian Urlacher of the NBA, using his 11 years of experience to continue to play at an elite level after his elite-level skills have eroded.
Wade no longer is a three-point threat. The same player who tried an average of 242 three-pointers from 2008 to 2011 has tried 25 this season (and made nine). He has to pick his spots for spectacular plays he used to make with regularity, and he can’t be Dwyane Wade every night.
‘‘If I feel good, I play good,’’ Wade said. ‘‘If I don’t feel good, I play so-so. If I feel bad, I don’t play.’’
Therein lies the secret to his success: Wade doesn’t play every night. He has played in 42 of the Heat’s 59 games and is playing a career-low 33 minutes a game. That’s a concession to the bumps and bruises.
‘‘It has to be managed,’’ Wade said. ‘‘You’ve got to look at it and understand what you’ve been given. And you’ve got to play the hand you’re given and play as smart as you can with that hand.
‘‘My coach [Erik Spoelstra], we’re on the same page. Everybody in our organization is — with not only me, but other players. We’ve been playing into late June for multiple years now. Everybody’s got a lot of wear-and-tear on their body and their mind. They’ve been very open to taking a different approach this year.’’
Asked what Wade’s best skill was at this stage of his career, teammate Chris Bosh didn’t hesitate.
‘‘His big-game situations,’’ Bosh said. ‘‘He’s a late-game [player]. He’s one of the guys you want making plays — on defense and on offense. We’ve been in so many situations when we need a big game, and he’s always stepped up. It’s been amazing to watch.’’
Though Wade no longer lives in the Chicago area, he said he still considers himself a Chicagoan. That feeling isn’t quite mutual among Bulls fans, who still feel the pain of being spurned by Wade in free agency four years ago. Many still don’t think his interest in the Bulls was sincere in the first place.
Wade said he doesn’t regret that his reputation in his hometown has taken that hit.
‘‘Not at all,’’ he said. ‘‘I was drafted to Miami, and I made a decision to stay in Miami. I love Chicago. I’m a Bulls fan to the core of who I am. But it wasn’t meant for me to play in that uniform at this time.
‘‘I don’t regret anything about it. The fifth pick in the draft, the Miami Heat selected me. It’s been my home ever since.’’