So now this avalanche finally falls on the weary head of one Dwyane Wade all this doubt and wrath and even, for the very first time, name-calling. Wade has had to wallow in that sewage for a couple of days now, after his worst moments ever in a Miami Heat uniform. In other words, Wade has spent the weekend feeling the way LeBron James has for much of the past two years. It really is the first time Wades golden name has ever been stained in Miami.
This was always supposed to be a partnership between Wade and James, a shared burden, but thats not quite how it worked out until right now. The expiration date has arrived on this lopsided deal where Wade gets all of the glory and James gets all the blame. At 3:30 p.m. Sunday in Indiana, Wade no longer gets to live off what he did in 2006. That feels like a long time ago. LeBron came here for you, Dwyane. Left behind his hometown and his image. You going to help your friend get out of this unholy mess or not?
Wade takes great pride in bouncing back from poor performances, in playing his best when angry, but well learn Sunday if his tired body has the strength to match his will and ego and competitive zeal. He is older than he has ever been, with a lot of kamikaze miles on that odometer, and this blur of a shortened season has ravaged the sport with pains, some of which can be found in Wades legs. Fresh legs are crucial to make jump shots. In this series, whenever he is more than three feet from the rim, Wade is missing four out of every five shots.
And hes coming off the worst game anyone in Miami has ever seen him play, as incompetent a game as anyone has ever seen from a superstar in this sport. It wasnt just the microscopic five points, though that was certainly bad enough. It was the bad judgment and lazy defense and an inability to do the most basic basketball things. He stepped out of bounds without being pressured and dribbled off his foot and couldnt execute the easiest of passes to James, once on an entry and once on a fast break. And then things got bad.
Frustrated and furious, Wade told his coach in a very public way to get the bleep out of his face, this as teammates tried to calm him and keep him back. His coach, calmly but rightly, was questioning him for not getting back on defense after a series of low-percentage shots. If there were a way to measure these things, you would have felt a portion of the Heat fan base, scared and doubting now, turn on their beloved Wade right then.
It is one thing to be terrible. That can happen to anyone in one game, though youd have a hard time finding any great-scoring superstar ever being quite this terrible. It is another thing entirely to drag everyone else down with you, and give the critics the ammunition they need, putting your teammates and coach in a bad position when you, more than anyone, are savvy enough to know better. At that moment, with Chris Bosh injured and Wade combusting and the road crowd in full roar, James had to feel every bit as alone as he did in Cleveland, the very same feeling that brought him here in the first place.
You look to your leader and cocaptain and champion in times of crisis. Hell, James came here to be closer to Wades help and guidance. And this is how he was going to play and act in a big moment? It is worse than anything James ever did while shrinking to the size of a figurine in the NBA Finals last year. Wade lured James and Bosh to his city with his friendship and greatness, and theyve been mocked nationally whereas he never has been, so this felt like watching the pilot ejecting amid the first sign of mere turbulence. And here, aside from a laughter and mocking from an America that wishes this Heat team ill, is what it begat:
It seems like Dwyane Wade is the first one to crack under the pressure, said Sam Mitchell, a former NBA Coach of the Year. Total meltdown. Total disrespect for his coach. Out of line. Out of character.
Would Wade have done that to Heat president and legend Pat Riley?
Never, Mitchell said. Wouldnt think of it. Not an issue. Never. It wouldnt happen. You just know better.
Is the Heat falling apart?
It certainly appears that way, Mitchell said.
Win makes it better
This is just an appearance, of course. If the desperate, limping Heat wins Sunday in Indiana to tie this second-round playoff series 2-2, the scoreboard erases all the noise pollution that has surrounded the Heat the past few days. Forty-eight good basketball minutes. Thats all it takes to produce a salve. Truth is, testosterone-soaked blowups happen all the time in a workplace this emotional and competitive. Alonzo Mourning and Shaquille ONeal have gotten in the face of Riley in a way that made teammates fear Riley was about to get punched. Wade and teammate Gary Payton screamed at each other on the court at halftime en route to the 2006 championship.
There is still time to silence the noise. But the clock starts ticking at 3:30 p.m. Sunday on this series, on the Heats season, on the Heats blueprint, possibly even on Wades career here because trade talk is going to engulf this team the moment another season ends in failure.
You put this together, Dwyane.
It is time to fix it.