Dwyane Wade is 30 in human years and about twice that in basketball years.
The miles he has logged on the court, and the ungentle way in which he has logged them, have taken their toll.
So part of Wade’s goal in chasing a second consecutive NBA title, and perhaps that Miami Heat dynasty LeBron James envisioned, is to do it while aging gracefully.
Wade has demonstrated his ability to adapt. He ceded his No. 1 role to James in 2012 and despite a bum knee still scored an average of 22.8 points in the playoffs en route to winning the second championship of his career.
In fact, Wade overcame doubts about his ability and rampant suggestions that he traded early effectiveness in the playoffs to become electrically essential in the Finals against Oklahoma City.
The big questions confronting Wade as he enters his 10th pro season are how he will adjust to the Heat’s maintenance plan for him, the presence of new teammate Ray Allen and refinements to his own game.
How much does Wade have left? Can he compensate for the inevitable reduction in spring with an increase in guile?
Following July arthroscopic surgery on his troublesome left knee, Wade is treading sensibly but feeling confident about the Tuesday opener against Boston. It was the second operation on the knee since 2007. He has also undergone shock therapy in the past and at least two fluid-draining procedures, including one before Game 3 against Indiana in May.
He looked heavy and rusty in China but rejuvenated in the preseason game against Detroit, scoring 21 points in 23 minutes.
“You feel yourself getting there,” he said. “I knew I was going to go out and attack the game and try to see where my game was, where my leg strength was. I wasn’t even thinking about the surgery. It didn’t cross my mind. Now I can just focus on getting stronger.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is pleased with Wade’s progress and maintains Wade — who turns 31 on Jan. 17 — is still squarely in his prime.
“He should regain a lot of explosiveness and quickness he didn’t have last season,” Spoelstra said. “The game is changing. Players are able to find the fountain of youth and sustain careers because of the knowledge of the science of taking care of their bodies.”
There’s no better example than ex-Celtic Allen, who has tweaked his game to remain productive. Allen has cut out most of the frenetic bursts through and over defenders to the rim that he used to employ. He became the best three-point shooter in NBA history. At 37, he still has the sweetest stroke in the game. From the corner, he’s deadly. His body fat is a sleek 5.5 percent.
“Offseason work is one of the biggest contributors to long-term health,” said Allen, who underwent ankle surgery to remove painful bone spurs after the Heat eliminated the Celtics. “I don’t drink alcohol, I eat smarter. You’re traveling on airplanes into different climates so you get sick. You absorb a lot of hits during the course of a season. You have to know your body, and Dwyane knows his body.”
Allen should be an aid to Wade’s longevity. As a perimeter threat, he will create more space for Wade to maneuver in. He can spell Wade in guarding the opposing point guard. He can run his man ragged when he’s constantly cutting on offense. And he can give Wade advice on how to improve his shooting range.