The Miami Heat is not planning anything extra special for Dwyane Wade when he makes his first trip back to AmericanAirlines Arena with the Chicago Bulls on Thursday night.
Much like the team did for LeBron James a couple seasons ago when he came back with the Cleveland Cavaliers, a Heat spokesman said a long video montage of Wade’s career highlights are expected to be played inside the arena after the game’s first time out. But other than that, a spokesman said, all other tributes for Wade, who won three titles in his 13 seasons with the Heat, will be held off for a later date.
Thursday’s game is the only regular season trip to South Florida for the Bulls, who went 0-4 against the Heat last season.
Veteran and team captain Udonis Haslem said he and Wade have been trying to setup dinner plans for after Thursday’s game, but Haslem said he’s not sure if the Bulls will be staying overnight. Chicago plays Wednesday in Atlanta and then Saturday at home against the Wizards.
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Will seeing Wade in a Bulls uniform be tough for Haslem to accept?
“At this point, not really,” he said. “We keep in touch. We talk all the time. I watch his games. I’m sure he watches our games. He told me he thought we had a good team. I’m sure he does watch our games. Our friendship continues to carry on. It will be different. Once we step between the lines, it’s like when I played against ‘Bron or anybody else. Once you step between the lines both sides are competitive and your competitive nature takes over on both ends.”
Haslem said he and Wade tell each other they miss each other “all the time.” He also said he doesn’t expect Wade to come back and play with an extra adrenaline to “try and stick it to the Heat or anything like that.”
“He’s going to try to play basketball and put his team in a position to win whether that be 20 points or 20 assists,” Haslem said. “He’s going to play Dwyane Wade basketball – he’s going to try to help his team win.”
Point guard Goran Dragic said he has exchanged friendly text messages with Wade a couple times since the season started. He said to this day he appreciates how Wade always encouraged him and had his back during their season and a half together.
“He was always open and a good teammate,” Dragic said. “I feel like the fans they’re going to cheer for him. He was with Miami for 13 years, won three championship rings, he deserves that. For sure he’s going to be all in. He’s going to try to have a good game. And it’s going to be a fun game.”
A RATTLING EXPERIENCE
A magnitude 5.0 earthquake here Sunday night in Oklahoma rattled a few Heat players including forward James Johnson, who was in his bathroom trying to handle some personal business when things around him began to shake.
“I was on the toilet in a haunted hotel, man, and the room just started shaking crazy and my door was wobbling back and forth,” Johnson said Monday. “I'm nervous. I don't know what's going on and I can't get out there fast enough because I still ain't completed my bathroom break. So I'm nervous.
“And all of a sudden I get a whole bunch of knocks on my door, and I'm, ‘Like, damn, I don't know what it is.’ I open my door and there's like six people, six teammates outside, ‘Did you feel that? Did you feel that?' I’m like, 'Yeah, what was that?' And they were like, ‘It was an earthquake.’ And an earthquake really sounds scary, but it eased my mind, because I'd rather that than the rumors of the hotel.”
The Heat, which has been staying in the Skirvin Hotel, infamous for its ghost stories including a recent one involving forward Justise Winslow, thankfully did not sustain any injuries outside of some loose nerves. But the quake – considered the fourth-strongest on Oklahoma State history – was still one of the strongest many coaches and players say they’ve ever experienced in their travels.
“The strongest one I've been in,” said guard Josh Richardson, an Oklahoma native who said there’s been more in the state within the last five years due to fracking.
Haslem, a Miami native, said he slept through the quake and was disappointed he missed it. Dragic, who experienced multiple quakes in Europe, said it was the second strongest of three he’s been through.
Coach Erik Spoelstra, who had been through one other quake in his native Portland shortly after college, said he left his room to come downstairs to check on players and others in the Heat’s party shortly after the quake began. He was happy to see no one was hurt.
“The first five seconds or so you don't really know what's going on,” Spoelstra said. “Then I realized this is not a train going by. It's initially what I thought.”