Sunday, May 1, 2011

Good Vibes in South Beach, If Wade Dictates Series


The crowd in the stands, lathered in Miami white, stood as Dwyane Wade posed for the cameras and dived into spectators as he stormed for the ball in the second half, where celebrities watched amazingly. The celebs, such as P. Diddy, Gloria Estefan and Drake, gathered near courtside to soak in a wave of excitement and intense drama, easily hypnotized by the electricity at American Airlines Arena, where nearby a train of cruise ships rested at the docks on a refreshing late afternoon in America’s tropical setting.

No one is a larger celebrity in South Beach than Wade, a basketball star and television marketer globally, whether he features in his comical T-Mobile or Gatorade commercial ads. The world belongs to Wade in Miami, where he is marked as the face of a franchise in prime contention with the welfare of two marquee megastars coming to his aid, on pace to possibly win an NBA championship in June. If we forget to acknowledge a noteworthy iconic figure in the league, a player with a colossal impact on his team's brilliancy and state of mind, it's Wade we are wrongly neglecting.

At game's end, he was given a loud, kindhearted standing ovation for a 38 point performance, settling for a game high in the scoring category and playing like he was the Flash we once were familiar with, when he was a dynamic duo alongside Shaquille O'Neal -- dating back to the time in his delightful career when he won his lone championship as a member of the Heat. What's more conspicuous, after the Heat beat the Boston Celtics 99-90 on Sunday in the opener of the Eastern Conference semifinals, is that he's virtually the veteran leader for a dominant core on a quest for an NBA title, coming out with a fierce, fiery mentality.

He not only qualifies as the Most Valuable Player in a town where basketball is priority, ever since the masterminded president assembled talent to solidify and form an unparalleled Superteam in South Beach, but also qualifies as the cultural icon in Miami -- even after LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined forces that built conceivably the greatest trio all-time. The iconic faces, beloved by the vast majority in South Florida, were the enormity of the league's most talented team and an eye-opener on an afternoon when the Heat finished a resplendent spectacle, in what appeared to articulate sheer dominance that came into view so nicely.

And most importantly, almost convincingly, if not, Wade played his most dazzling game of these playoffs after he could've brought smiles to thousands, believing in a team on the verge of a title amid a daunting postseason of ills and thrills. When he sauntered off the court and walked toward the locker room, Wade acknowledged the fans and stared fatigued, knowingly pleased with the victory but not satisfied, knowing there is plenty left in the series.

Meanwhile, the Heat faced a rigid challenge of their own, with discussions that the ageless Celtics were well-experienced, poised and robust in defeating Miami in a lengthy series of breathless and surprising fireworks. D-Wade and company took notice and had been clearly aware of the Celtics' dominance, after meeting on three occasions in the regular season.

The teaming of multiple stars is a useful tool for Wade, relieving lots of pressure on the explosive floor general who needed assistance, including LeBron at his aid in chase for a championship. The anger in a bitter town that hasn't witnessed a major championship in ages, along with the world perceiving James as a pariah and the world's most hated athlete, described the Heat as the villainous franchise in professional sports, holding grudges against James after abruptly departing a depressed community where residents burned his expensive No. 23 jerseys following his egotistical extravaganza.

It was "The Decision," a full-blown reality show that crippled his legacy and increasingly killed his popularity as populace conveyed animosity towards the global megastar. The emotions of a fallen star, when he clearly dropped from grace by his poor choice during his free agency last summer, became a national disturbance and has not earned his celebrity as a likable athlete, even though he sacrificed his legacy and ceded his ego. It wasn't long ago, particularly at the beginning of the regular season when Miami struggled to accumulate victories because of egos, imperfections, limited experience and the lack of mental capacities, that the Heat became fearful, gutless and soft. Few believe, but for many of whom hate the Heat, that the recent prosperity of Miami's postseason surge engenders an emotional outpouring for the magnitude of a championship-starved town.

Meanwhile, in the past week, the Heat became less vulnerable and the scariest assassins in the playoffs. It wasn't just a matter of bodies crashing to the floor or mini scuffles, provoked by the exchange of words from one of the stars -- sent to the locker room early after he was ejected -- but it was essentially the consciousness in a sensational, epic series of conviction and craze. The difference in this case was the Heat, a cohesive unit with trust and confidence, acting like unstoppable contenders. When Paul Pierce drew his second technical foul with seven minutes left, as the irritable Celtics' star was escorted to the locker room furious over Wade's peskiness that forced Pierce to lose his composure, he was battered and lost his match against Wade.

"It's the playoffs," said Wade. "We're trying to win."

The Heat arrived on the scene and bullied the Celtics, delivering the knockout punch in which it sort of dictated the concept of what could be a prolonged series, an epic battle with engaging drama. And as combative as the Heat are playing, it's been a drastic turnaround for Miami, once criticized for its early lapses and not jelling as a tenacious unit. Wade was fierce and had been the scoring machine for much of the night. James was the selfless playmaker, mostly dishing off passes to James Jones, who had 25 points off the bench.

With that in mind, he was near-perfect from three-point range and shot an incredible 5-for-7, giving the Heat a cushion in a large deficit. This comes as no surprise that the Heat are clicking on all cylinders. The good vibes are telling by Miami's scorching firepower, mindset and toughness, dominating the East and bringing out the oldness in the Celtics, a unit with aging veterans but fully capable of showing signs of life when the stakes are higher. There are good vibes partly because Wade vanquished four miserable regular season downfalls by pouring in 38 points with 14-for-21 in shooting, five assists and two blocks in a well-rounded performance, all coming in 37 minutes of playing time.

The point is, just moments into the late matinee in South Beach, Wade bullied and emotionally teased Pierce as much as Jones peeved the Celtics captain when he was clobbered around the shoulders by Jones on a play where Pierce was faked and tried to hinder him from firing the jumper for a three-point opportunity. In response, he nudged his nose into Jones' cheek, and of course, Jones retaliated. There was an abundance of trash talk that escalated into fighting words to some degree, really by the time the Celtics were trailing 87-74.

As Wade stormed the baseline defensively, breaking out of the screen, the refs blew the whistles immediately and called double technicals on both superstars, and then sent Pierce to the locker room. The customary inhabitants in the stands witnessed an earnest Wade pose as a leader in his role, and then as superior as ever, he demanded the ball and shined as the popular star on the shores of South Beach. If he's finally the primary scoring assassin, if James is the crafty playmaker and if Jones can be a factor off the bench, then it's easy to figure that the Celtics are in for a tremendous fight, a rival showdown that can crucify Boston. For now, however, the Celtics are labeled underdogs on the road against a younger, tougher championship-caliber squad -- perhaps scarier if Wade hit pull-up jumpers and score fastbreak points.

All of this makes him thrilling to watch regularly. And in this particular scenario, the Heat's relentless defensive effort was designed to frustrate the Celtics and make it complicated. It was effective and very well executed, as the Celtics stumbled in a sense. Early on, Rajon Rondo, Celtics explosive point guard, earned three fouls, played a total of eight first-half minutes and couldn't defend Wade successfully.

Wade, as we know, is suited to attack the Celtics and can be very creative with the ball in his hands, equipped to attempt the pull-up jump shot. So even if James is his counterpart, the Heat are aggressors and superb with Wade having an impact, taking on the substantial game-winning play. By now, the Heat are probably inspired to reach higher levels in Game 2 on Tuesday, while the Celtics are revealing signs of weakness as the team ages instantly.

Sure enough, beware of Wade. Pretty soon, on the arena in downtown Miami, it should be a banner that reads "BEWARE OF WADE!!" After all, it is Wade County or Wade's World, which ever you prefer.