Before he returned Monday morning to the same practice court he spent his first 13 seasons in the league pouring thousands and thousands of hours worth of sweat into, Dwyane Wade spent the weekend enjoying the comforts of being back home.
After a workout at the Heat’s facilities on Sunday, the 12-time All-Star and three-time NBA champion said he went to his house and spent two hours laying out next to his pool tanning.
“I sent my wife [actress Gabrielle Union] a video of me [standing outside near the pool],” Wade, 36, said Monday after his first full practice with the team since being acquired last Thursday at the NBA trade deadline. “I said, ‘This is not a dream. This is real. This is really happening.’
“It definitely feels good,” Wade continued. “I was just talking to Alonzo [Mounring]. Even being back in this gym, this is the environment that I grew up in. So everything feels right. It feels comfortable. I’m even making free throws in here that I wasn’t making.
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“[Right now I’m] just trying to get back comfortable and get used to the team. I love the way they play. I love how it’s kind of equal offense here with these guys. So it’s going to be a fun style of basketball to play.”
The Heat (30-26) left for Toronto Monday afternoon and a back-to-back set with the Eastern Conference leading Raptors (39-16) and the team right behind them in the standings entering Monday night’s action – the Philadelphia 76ers, who are 28-25 and the eighth seed.
Monday, though, Wade finally got a chance to go through a full practice with his teammates after scoring three points (on 1 of 6 shooting) and playing 22 minutes in his debut last Friday, a win over the Bucks.
Coach Erik Spoelstra utilized Wade mostly as a backup point guard to Goran Dragic before reinstering him for the final one minute and seconds of the game when Wade had a big block to help seal a Heat win.
Spoelstra doesn’t want to tie Wade down to any specific role in part because the Heat has a very deep roster. But he did say he would continue to come off the bench on Monday.
Spoelstra has proven throughout the season he will fluctuate minutes depending on what is working and what isn’t. But he feels Wade can help the Heat in many facets including leadership and providing a calming presence down the stretch of games. His teammates have noticed.
“It’s funny, when you’re out on the floor, he brings this calming [sense], sort of lets you settle down a little bit out there,” said Wayne Ellington, who hit the clinching three-pointer Friday night after Wade’s clutch block. “That veteran presence and the pace he plays at kind of slows us all down and you start seeing things that you didn’t see before. But it’s amazing, man. Just being out there with him and seeing his competitive side [in practice], he still got a lot of those things that he had back in his Flash days. It’s funny to see him out there and still get to those moves.”
Said All-Star point guard Goran Dragic of what Wade gives the Heat: “It’s his aura. He gives you something that makes you comfortable, makes you feel good. That’s why he’s such a tremendous player in this league, a Hall of Famer.”
Spoelstra settled on a word he feels best describes the way Wade has impacted the team thus far.
“Panache – that’s what Dwyane has with this group,” Spoelstra said. “The caché that brings everybody else to a higher level just with his presence. That’s probably the impact that he’s had. The other night, that felt different and unique to me having Dwyane back like that. But [Monday], having him back at practice and around the guys that felt 1,000 percent normal. It felt like it did two years ago.”
With Kelly Olynyk out through the All-Star break and Rodney McGruder unlikely to return until then as well, Spoelstra said he hasn’t given any thought yet to how he’ll handle minutes for Wade when the team returns to full health. But he feels things will sort themselves out.
“Right now I can’t answer those questions and that’s what I’ve told the guys,” Spoelstra said. “Just give to the team. The strength of our team is when we utilize our numbers and our depth. But we can’t really fully get to work on our rotation with Kelly out. So right now it’s contribute, help us win and clear your mind. You don’t have to worry about the exact rotation down the stretch right now. I don’t want the guys to pay that much mind to it right now.”
For now, the toughest adjustment with Wade around has been figuring out how to differentiate between Dwyane and Wayne. Spoelstra said through a chuckle he’s referring to the franchise’s all-time leader by his last name and calling Ellington by his first name.
“I’m the new guy here now,” Wade said.
The new guy spent the end of practice Monday working on corner threes – something he didn’t do in a games much his first go-around with the Heat. Maybe this is just part of the new Wade we’ll see moving forward.
“When I left the first time to Chicago, coach [Fred] Hoiberg kind of put in my mind to shoot and we worked on them a lot,” Wade said. “I did the same at Cleveland. I just didn’t get to shoot it as much. I shot it more in Chicago. Since I got back here, [player development coach Eric Glass] and the assistant coaches have been telling me to shoot them. I’m not Wayne Ellington. I’m not looking to be Wayne Ellington. But I definitely can make some shots, especially when I get in a good rhythm. So, I’m probably shooting them more than when I left.”