Erik Spoelstra grew to accept the sight of Dwyane Wade in a different NBA jersey last season when he went home to Chicago.
But Spoelstra can’t stomach seeing him wearing a Cleveland Cavaliers’ uniform.
“This is like the twilight zone,” Spoelstra said. “Every time he’s in a new uniform you’re like, OK, but not that team. It will never seem right. For me, I hate it.
“But I’m happy for Dwyane, I’m happy for his family. I think he’s in a good spot. I think the role that he’s in is going to be one of the most impactful roles in the league.”
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Wade, the former 12-time All-Star for the Heat, will face his original team on Tuesday night for the first time since his reunion with LeBron James in Cleveland.
The Heat (10-9) will enter the contest, scheduled for a 7 p.m. start at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, on a three-game winning streak — its longest of the season.
The Cavaliers (12-7) play at Philadelphia the night before facing the Heat, and will enter that game having won seven in a row — the league’s longest active winning streak.
The surge came after a 3-5 start for the Cavaliers during which Wade compared the difficulties to those experienced during the final season of the Big 3 in Miami, which he referred to as a “bad marriage.”
Wade and James’ former teammate, Udonis Haslem, lamented not having the chance to hang out the night before the game and maybe start the war of words.
“I was looking forward to the trash talking over dinner the night before, but since they’re coming in right before I won’t have that opportunity,” Haslem said.
Wade played against the Heat three times last season as a member of the Bulls, the team with which he signed a two-year, $47.5 million deal in the summer of 2016, and for which he left Miami after 13 seasons and three NBA titles.
Wade agreed to a buyout to leave Chicago this offseason and signed a one-year, $2.3 million deal with the Cavaliers after speculation he might return to Miami.
Four years after James’ own return to Cleveland, two of the Heat’s “Big 3” were back together.
Haslem, who spent those 13 years playing alongside Wade, said before the season that he’d put in a special request for minutes for that game, and said he had six fouls to give and even a flagrant for Wade and James.
“I’ve got about three or four or whatever I need,” Haslem said. “It’s all in good fun. People took that seriously. I got people threatening me on Instagram. You hit Dwyane? Hit LeBron? We’re coming for you. Come on, bring it. It’s all fun.
“If I get a chance to come in [Tuesday], I’m going to compete, do my job. I’m not going to change how I play or the way I approach the game because of who I’m playing against. They understand that and that’s why they respect me. I’m a competitor. They’d love to have me on their side.”
Wade averaged 18.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists in three games against the Heat last season, two of which he started.
But this season, Wade has accepted a role off the bench with the Cavaliers, something Haslem said he respects.
“That’s just who he is,” Haslem said. “He’s about winning. He understands the big picture — winning championships. If that’s what it’s going to take for those guys to get over the hump and be a championship team and get where they’re trying to go, then he has no problem making that decision.”
Spoelstra said he’ll be telling younger players stories about Wade’s selflessness and willingness to do whatever’s necessary to win for years to come.
“Dwyane has proven that time and time again,” Spoelstra said. “In his prime to be the leading scorer of the league, MVP candidate, to really be a force of will for winning. When you put together a Hall of Fame team, he’ll sacrifice and be willing to not be the leading scorer to allow somebody else to be an MVP. Sacrifice minutes and then to sacrifice coming off the bench like he’s doing this year.
“I think he’s done that so many times it’s such a great lesson for young players in this league that winning is the most important thing and that’s what Dwyane embodies with his actions and not just his words.”
▪ Guard Derrick Walton, Jr. went back to Sioux Falls Monday for the Skyforce’s game in Erie, Pennsylvania. Spoelstra said they planned to have Walton back with the Heat Tuesday in Cleveland. Walton has used up 15 of his 45 days allowed with the Heat per his two-way contract.