Dwyane Wade crossed paths with his All-Star replacement on Friday, and the two competitors shared a moment.
Kyle Korver of the Atlanta Hawks pretended to be sympathetic of Wade’s hamstring injury, but the thinly veiled act was unnecessary. All season long, the Hawks have been filling in the talent gaps of the Eastern Conference left by Wade and his former dynasty. Why should the All-Star Game be any different?
Wade himself was opportunistic when helping Heat president Pat Riley create a super team in 2010. Korver and his many All-Star Hawks, the current toasts of the NBA here in New York during All-Star weekend, represent just one team of an Eastern Conference filled with soldiers of fortune, warlords who have been divvying up Wade’s former kingdom during the first half of the regular season.
Hard feelings? Please. An 11-time All-Star selection and a three-time champion, Wade has none.
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“It’s so funny,” Wade said of his brief exchange with Korver. “He had this look on his face like, ‘I’m sorry that you’re not able to play, but really I’m not sorry.’ It was hilarious. So, I’m happy for him to get his All-Star nod.”
Happy, sure … and then the subtle reminder of who the first-ballot Hall of Famer was in that literal passing of the guard at the Sheraton in Times Square, and who might be a footnote of statistical achievement at season’s end.
“Obviously, we came in the league together,” Wade said of he and Korver. “So it’s cool that he’s getting his nod. And they deserve it, man. When you play the way they’ve played all year, you deserve to be represented and showcased.”
The NBA is a strange thing sometimes. It loved to hate the Heat, a team for the ages, and it now hates anyone who tries to discount these Hawks, a team that started the season under a cloud of controversy but is now atop the standings in the East.
It seems like just a few months ago that Hawks co-owner Michael Gearon Jr. wrote a letter calling for his own general manager to resign or be fired.
Atlanta general manager Danny Ferry delivered racially charged comments about Heat player Luol Deng during a conference call with the Hawks’ ownership group last summer, and instead of being fired Ferry was reprimanded by the team. He is still employed by the Hawks, but Ferry has taken an indefinite leave of absence.
Meanwhile, three of his players were voted into the All-Star Game by league coaches, and Korver was picked by NBA commissioner Adam Silver to replace Wade, who strained his right hamstring in January and decided to sit out the game as a precaution. Korver is shooting 51.2 percent from the field, 52.3 percent from three-point range and 91.1 percent from the free-throw line.
No statistically qualifying player has ever shot 50 percent from the field, 50 percent from three-point range and 90 percent from the free-throw line in NBA history.
“I’m on a great team and a great system,” Korver said. “I’m getting some good looks and trying to knock them down. All-Star has never been on my radar. It’s never been a goal. It’s never been something that I really like – I love playing basketball. I love working at it. I think a lot of things have come together for me in the last couple of years.”
Korver, guard Jeff Teague, and forwards Al Horford and Paul Millsap are the Hawks’ All-Stars, which means only Atlanta starter DeMarre Carroll didn’t make the trip to New York. All five of the players are averaging at least 12 points per game, and Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer, schooled by Spurs coach Gregg Popovich for many years, is coaching the East All-Stars this Sunday.
Teague, the point guard, said the team’s key to success is “just liking one another on and off the court.”
“We really enjoy being around each other,” said Teague, a first-time All-Star averaging 17 points per game. “It’s fun – great group of guys. Nobody has any problems. Nobody has an ego. We check it at the door. That’s really it.”
Fans of the league love their NBA conspiracy theories — how much more is the Atlanta franchise worth now, exactly? – but there’s no denying the Hawks (43-11) were an excellent team for the first 54 games of their regular season.
They went 17-0 in January, and the NBA did the unprecedented thing of naming all five of the team’s starters Eastern Conference Players of the Month.
“They’re good, simple,” Wade said. “They’re one of the best teams in the NBA, and this is a team where you play them and you don’t realize how the score is going away from you.”
Still, Chris Bosh isn’t sold on the Hawks just yet.
When asked what’s more impressive, how the Hawks are winning or how his team dominated for four years, Bosh didn’t hesitate.
“It has yet to be written what they’ve done yet,” Bosh said.
“They’ve done a fantastic job, but they’ll soon see when they get to the playoffs that that just builds expectations. You have a good record, and you’re expected to do certain things, and it’s nothing short of a championship for them now.”