Welcome back, Dwyane Wade.
Your timing was impeccable.
The chatter entering Wednesday nights playoff game here centered on the thick elastic wrap on Wades right knee and the pain barking underneath it. Could Dwyane be his old, spectacular self? Or was he simply too hurt?
The answers were inconclusive much of the night, but emphatic when they absolutely mattered.
I had a good couple minutes, he said, smiling.
Wade did, and that is largely why Miami beat the Chicago Bulls 94-91 Wednesday night to win this second-round series 4 games to 1 and jack the downtown bayside arena into fiesta mode. The result sent depleted Chicago into its offseason after a noble effort, and sends Miami on to the NBAs Eastern Conference finals after a dramatically earned comeback.
The Heat is now halfway to a repeat championship.
Its the easy half thats in the books now.
Its what remains that will find the vintage Wade healthy or playing like it in ever greater demand.
There is a country music lyric: I aint as good as I once was, but Im as good, once, as I ever was.
That was D-Wade, late Wednesday. That might be Wade all this postseason, budgeting his energy and physical strength, waiting to strike, striking in bursts.
Wednesday he would finish with 18 points, but the six of those he delivered last recalled a Wade unencumbered by knee-wraps or doubts.
At a time when the game was stretched taut and teetering, Wade made a runner off the glass. Then he made another one of those after a reverse dribble into the paint left Bulls defender Rip Hamilton frozen. Then Wade climbed air for a slam-dunk off a missed shot for a late seven-point lead that held up.
Its challenging for him, admitted LeBron James. He wants to do more, and wed like him to do more, but just his presence on the court helps us.
Wade had left the game briefly in the second half to have his right knee re-taped, because I knew I was going back into a grind, he said. And I knew [Chicago] wouldnt be prepared for me to attack. I was kind of forgotten at that time.
Forgotten by everyone but us, James added.
Wade had averaged only 12.3 points this postseason before Wednesday, and was questionable to even play in this closeout game. The previous game hed scored a mere six points.
On Tuesday hed taken what he called a mental day for myself to uncloud your mind. He spoke with his old college coach, Tom Crean. He resolved that hed been here before, and conquered all the doubters before, too.
Thats my life, Wade said. Im not supposed to be sitting up here at the podium right now.
Wade is sensitive to the notion he has become somewhat injury-prone, yet pointed out after Wednesdays win that his career scoring totals might be up there with LeBrons if he had enjoyed better health. It was a curious, unsolicited remark. It spoke to the ongoing sacrifice Wade makes to defer to James in the name of the greater good. I hope at the end of my career my game gets the respect it deserves, Wade said.
Before the game a more jocular Wade joked about the situation with his knee, the feeling of it.
Its like the candy bar Almond Joy, he had described it. Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you dont.