In Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, Dwyane Wade was his usual brilliant self as he scored and dished off to teammates for easy scores in a tough playoff game. Late in the fourth quarter, with the game decided, Wade was dribbling out the shot clock and had Sasha Pavlovic defending him rather tightly.
Flash proceeded to size him up, and cross him left to right and using an explosive first step to get by Pavlovic and then dialed up a crossover dribble from this time his right hand back to his left and then retreated back to his original spot as his defender just stood there dumbfounded. There was still more time on the shot clock left to burn.
The former Marquette star then repeated the act on one more occasion and then finally called it a day. The end result in this case wasn’t important.
The brief sequence was somewhat symbolic of Dwyane Wade’s career: always probing and keeping defenders off balance by stringing along a combination of moves that would leave most players dizzy.
A strong case could be made that the former Finals MVP, Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant are the best ball handlers at the off guard position in NBA history. A.I. usually gets the respect and recognition but Bryant and Wade are often forgotten on this front.
Indeed, Wade has been setting up defenders from the moment he entered the league with exceptional handles, speed and quickness. Combine that with his hops as well as his ability to finish in the paint and he may just be one of the most unstoppable guards the league has ever seen.
The Heat superstar does it all.
He defends, gets into passing lanes for steals, gets out in transition for thunderous finishes, blocks shots like no other guard ever, runs the offense, posts up, drives to the basket, makes open jumpers, hits impossible floaters, converts bank shots with either hand and gets himself to the free throw line.
The former NBA All-Star Game MVP was so impressive at times during this year’s playoffs that his play prompted this tweet from ESPN.com’s Chris Palmer:
One could argue that it was perhaps a hyperbolic statement, but that would be missing the larger point: Dwyane Wade made his list because he is freaking good.
The Chicago native is an unconventional blend of Michael Jordan and Allen Iverson. He is fundamentally sound as a basketball player — his footwork rarely gets mentioned and same thing for his ability to finish in traffic with is off-hand — but yet offers some flash to his game that’s eerily reminiscent of the former 76ers superstar. His crossovers are a thing of beauty and his ability to glide to the basket always gets fans excited.
He is undeniably one of the best off-guards the league has ever seen, and he has showed this time and time again.
The former Marquette star may have struggled earlier in the playoffs when the Miami Heat were in a hole against the Indiana Pacers, but he found a way to bounce back and help his team be victorious against a good up and coming team.
The next round saw the Miami Heat take on the Boston Celtics where Doc Rivers did his best to limit Dwyane Wade’s aggressiveness by sending double teams his way to force him to think and make decisions and for at least the first 24 minutes of every game in the Eastern Conference Finals, it seemed to work. But eventually, Wade figured things out in the second half and then put the Celtics’ defense on its heels.
In the NBA Finals, Wade was less than spectacular in the opening game on the road in Oklahoma City and bore the brunt of the criticism for the team’s loss.
By Game 2 however, all of the doubts about his game and his talents were put to rest. He stopped settling for long jumpers and instead put his head down to attack the rim and also crashed the boards for second chance opportunities. It’s almost as if Wade had to be reminded of who he was and what he was capable of. And once he was, everything was back to normal.
Notwithstanding Game 1, Wade averaged 23.5 points per game, 6.5 rebounds per game and 4.5 assists per game on 45.2 percent field goal shooting in the 2012 NBA Finals. Terrific numbers, but they fail to capture the type of tone that the Heat superstar set for his team.
Flash competed brilliantly defensively with his energy, heart and hustle throughout the Finals. He switched out on pick-and-rolls and defended Kevin Durant, and also at times got caught in transition or through a defensive switch defending the likes of Serge Ibaka or Kendrick Perkins and fought them for post position and never relinquished his spot. In addition, he ran out in transition for easy baskets but more importantly he was at times the team’s paint protector as he contested and even swatted shots away from the opposition to help Miami get out and run.
Wade may have not have been the lead character in this movie, but he sure was played a quite important role in it.
In an interesting way, it’s almost as if Dwyane Wade is in the midst of taking Kobe Bryant’s route but in reverse. The Heat’s shooting guard led his team to a title in 2006 and won the Finals MVP award, he then played on some mediocre teams and then watched Pat Riley assemble an incredible team for him and then became the team’s second star but nonetheless a vital cog within the team’s structure.
A role he had to adjust to, but one that now seems well worth it given that it helped him get back to the mountaintop.
Most of the talk about the 2012 NBA Finals will revolve around LeBron James finally winning a championship — on his terms no less — but let us not forget that he had a great second option help him get there.
It may have taken him six years, but we have a new old champion to talk about.
Questions or comments? Feel free to leave them in the comments section or you can contact me by email at [email protected].