Dwyane Wade’s camouflage shoes Thursday night were nods to Veteran’s Day. His driving dunk in the lane in the fourth quarter was a visual reminder, too.
The message: Wade is still playing like a star in his prime.
Before the season began, considerable national attention was given to comments made by Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant that suggested Wade had lost a few steps and that the best shooting guard in the league was now James Harden, who is more than six years younger than Wade.
Wade bristled at the perceived slight and penned a “note to self,” which he then sent to the millions of people following him on Instagram and Twitter: “Make him respect your place in history … again …”
Durant fueled the soap opera when he replied on Twitter: “Show me don’t tweet me.”
Wade has been doing just that to begin the season, and his showcase effort in the Heat’s 102-97 victory against the Clippers, a favorite to win the Western Conference, came on the same night that Harden and his Houston Rockets played a home game against the NBA’s other team from Los Angeles.
While Wade’s offensive brilliance put away Chris Paul and the Clippers in the fourth quarter with relative ease, Harden and the Rockets couldn’t hold off Steve Blake and the Lakers, who rallied from a six-point deficit in the final 2:40 of the game. A three-pointer by Blake, who played high school ball at Miami Senior High with Udonis Haslem, in the final seconds gave the Lakers the lead and the 99-98 victory.
On Friday, Wade was asked if he saw highlights from the Lakers’ victory, which included two missed shots by Harden late in the game that could have sealed the win for Houston despite teammate Dwight Howard failing repeatedly to ice the game from the free-throw line.
“Hey, I don’t have any problems with James Harden,” Wade said.
No, of course not, but if Harden, who leads the NBA in scoring with 161 points, is the new gold standard for shooting guards in the NBA, then Wade isn’t far off the pace. He has steadily increased his offensive output in his first five games of the season and commented Friday that he felt good enough to potentially score 40 points. He finished with 29 on Thursday night, including 11 in the fourth quarter.
So, why didn’t he go for 40?
“You just got to understand that you’ve got to keep other guys happy,” Wade said. “Obviously, years ago, if I had it going, I would have kept it going, but I understand on this team that there are so many other guys who are capable, you’ve got to keep your teammates happy no matter what.”
Wade finished the game with seven assists to go along with seven turnovers in addition to attempting 22 shots. His attempts have increased steadily over his past three games, which he said is a sign of strength in his legs. He attempted 15 field goals in the Heat’s victory against the Wizards and two nights later went 9 of 19 from the field against Toronto.
Still, Wade said he is nowhere near in proper regular-season shape. He put the number at 75 percent after Friday’ practice.
Wade is shooting 49.4 percent from the field, including 41.4 percent on pull-up jumpers. Wade’s baseline jumper over J.J. Redick on Thursday was a clear sign, Wade said, that his body is once again healthy.
“My shot was feeling good,” Wade said. “It’s been feeling good the last couple games. … You have more confidence to shoot it knowing that you have the strength to shoot it.”
JAMES’ BACK SORE
LeBron James, who has experienced back spasms off and on throughout his career, had a flare up during Thursday’s game, but he went through the Heat’s short practice Friday and expects to play Saturday against the Celtics. James said his back has been sore since training camp. He aggravated it diving for a loose ball against the Clippers.
“LeBron James’ back has been sore for a while, and he’s still on LeBron James pace,” Wade said.
James is averaging 24.3 points per game after scoring 18 points against the Clippers.
“Obviously, I’m not as explosive as I am when it’s not hurting,” said James, who left open the possibility of not playing Saturday “if it gets worse.”
The NBA fined Mario Chalmers $15,000 on Friday, one day after forearming Clippers forward Blake Griffin in the throat. The incident happened in the third quarter of the Heat’s victory. Originally, Chalmers was called for a common foul. The foul was upgraded to a Flagrant Foul 2 after a review by the league.