Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Wade Has to Be Winner for Heat, Otherwise No Chance

The arrogance, the childish acrimony during postgame news conferences is common, as always. If Dwyane Wade is all about winning, he's absolutely not a winner. Alas, such a pouty brat, and somewhat egocentric, Wade can't focus on the task ahead, failing to lead the Miami Heat as he is listed as Heat's go-to-guy, a behemoth player if only he comes to play for a championship without telling the world that he's a winner.

“I’m a winner, so I’m just going to do whatever I can to help my team,” Wade said after the game. “Just doing whatever it takes to win the ball game, not necessarily sitting up here worrying about scoring 30 points.”

No one cares until it finally happens, no one cares until the Heat actually win the NBA Finals, but losing 105-94 to the Thunder in Game 1, with Miami crumbling in the second half, doesn't make life much better. Instead, it makes life much harder, and Wade is mainly the problem. He's not being a leader, he's being a follower to LeBron James. He's not being a nasty ballplayer, he's being an squawker, a pompous know-it-all and folded on the national stage Tuesday night.

The pressure is on for Game 2 Thursday night, particularly for Wade to erase a misleading performance in a game that the role players stepped up early. Never mind Wade scoring 19 points, finishing with eight assists and four rebounds in the opener of the Finals. If he and his team were hoping to win more than the next man, it would be nice for him to step to the force and take initiative in trying to be an emotional leader with the game on the line. His current state is undiscovered. He's in absolute distress, and has been battling knee soreness, according to reports.

But an injury is never a convenient excuse for someone who admittedly said he's all about winning. Like anything else in life, Wade needs to rediscover himself before it's too late. This, to me, is what raises fear, the fact Wade is either consistent or inconsistent, as no one ever knows what to expect from a player with very little pedigree because of his lack of mobility and explosiveness from an ailing knee. He didn't have his best game. Toward the end of the game he was taking huge gasps of air. Toward the end of the game he walked off the court helpless and impotent.

The catchy fad of players wearing geeky glasses is what's in, and after the game, Wade walked to the podium wearing his purple shirt and slacks with thick glasses. Not once in the game was he in control, too often watching his sidekick, James, since deferring the leadership role to him. This means he's too busy standing around, putting more pressure on James to deliver in the final minutes, when the ball should really be in Wade's hands in the fourth quarter.

“That’s the hardest part about playing with another guy with that capability; it’s just trying to figure out when to defer and when not to defer,” Wade said. “I’ve played with Shaq before. I’ve played with a dominant player, and I knew when to defer and when not to defer. It’s kind of a read-all game a little bit, and I think with me and LeBron, we continue to talk about it and discuss what we feel is the opportunities for that.”

By handing over the ball to Wade in the fourth, he has a better chance, unlike James, to make a clutch shot and give the Heat the victory they are now looking for to capture an opportunity to even the series 1-1 against Oklahoma City. Time after time, he's not making it happen, he's not helping the Heat's cause, nor has he been playing like he wants a second ring. Time after time, he's not making it easier on LeBron, who is competing for his first ring.

That is, after all, why he left Cleveland, right?

Because of the three-time MVP as a sidekick to Wade, James is actually minimizing and taking away from Wade's confidence and ability to perform at the highest level. Far from merely facing mortals, Wade had dealt with adversity after a dismal playoff game and responded by having a superb performance -- such was when he scored 45 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and distributed 5 assists to force Game 7 against Indiana in the Eastern Conference semifinals. This is a different Heat team when Wade is not on his game.

He seemed lost and flustered, unsure of himself and relied on his teammates a tad too much. It's tough to think -- no matter what Wade wants us to believe -- that he's not panicking heavily, thrust now in a position to find a way back into this series. If anything, he couldn't care less whether the Heat win or lose, laughing as he strolled into the conference room for postgame interviews, where he was an object of interrogation.

In response, he said he will stay aggressive, and will prepare by looking at film and making adjustments to have an answer for Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Earlier in his career, he was the most ferocious player in Miami, but when LeBron came to his neighborhood and arrived on his doorstep in South Beach, Wade's consistency and urgency shrunk. It was almost like looking at a sequel to Honey I Shrunk the Kids, the latest version that could have been called Honey I Shrunk Miami, a cinematic script that would have made Will Smith sing Farewell to Miami.

That's how bad it's been. That's how bad Wade has been. It's been the story of the playoffs. He's been on a roller coaster ride, from poor play to daunted losses followed by eye-popping games that made you blink in amazement. As for Wade, you never know which personality will show up, sometimes unable to find his zone for game-changing moments. He's either broken or he's superior. In this case, Wade wasn't superior, but broken missing 11 of 15 shots in the first three quarters and 12 of 19 shots overall.

The last thing on Wade's mind, after last year's loss to Dallas, is back-to-back misfortunes, which will come back to haunt the Heat if they lose again. This time around, while Miami was privileged to return to the finals for another crack at the championship, Wade should be determined to win it all and redeem himself of failures from a year ago. The forefront of the NBA Finals happens to be the overexposed duel between Durant and James, but the focus should be turned to Wade, another star player who is not balanced and not competent to take over like Durant and Westbrook, who made the Heat seem older.

Miami can only hope for the best solution. It's only one game, surely, but the Heat need a lot of work to beat a team more skilled, deeper and quicker with fresher bodies. Even if the Finals revolve around James' championship pursuit, it's up to Wade. It's his team, not James'. The star of this team is Wade. It's Wade's County. It’s Dwyane's World in South Beach. But that has never occurred to anyone. The focus is on James, interestingly so, after making a case when he scored 30 points in the opener that went to waste.

But he won't win this alone and he can't have success without Wade accumulating monster points to be an equalizer offensively for a bona fide tandem, if not trio, hinging on whether Chris Bosh finally plays with toughness for maybe the finest moment of his career. In many ways, too, Brooks is outcoaching Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who is afraid to make adjustments because he refuses to change the balance and tactics. He likes to play small, but it is detrimental to his team, a disadvantage for the Heat.

Off to a fast start, the Heat bludgeoned their transition game to extend a large lead early, grabbing steals and hustling for loose balls to push it the other way. They feasted on a vast array of shots, taking a 10-2 lead by spreading the floor, getting out in transition on break outs following missed shots and turnovers as it resulted in dunks and fast break points. For the second quarter highlight reel, James stole the ball from a broken pass by Durant and slammed it.

If only Wade delivered the goods.

From his actions, following the loss, Wade is arrogantly pleased to be in the position he and his team is currently in, and looks to be prepared and more assertive.

We've seen this episode before.