Heat guard Dwyane Wade turns 34 on Jan. 17.
And even though he will be a year older, his body is actually feeling a little younger these days. His knees are anyway.
After missing 20 games last season, 28 the year before that and 13 when Miami won its last NBA title in 2012-13, Wade has started all but one of the Heat’s first 31 games this season and that was when his youngest son Zion was hospitalized.
Wade didn’t start Friday against the Mavericks because of flu-like symptoms.
On the court, he’s showing flashes of explosion at the rim (he has 13 dunks already after having only 25 all of last season), and his percentage of shots near the basket are up (27.1 percent) from last season (23.1 percent) while his reliance on the jump shot (70.3 percent) is down from a season ago (74.3 percent).
“The 30 I’ve played in, they haven’t all been amazing, but I’ve enjoyed them from the standpoint of just being able to physically play and do the things I want to do on the floor,” Wade said before Friday’s game against the Mavericks. “The other night, four games in five nights, coming off that [bruised] hip, I wasn’t feeling great. But I had a bounce in my step because I was feeling better. I always go back to how I felt two, three, four years ago now when I was in a lot of pain.
“Even coming into that game, sore, tired, I wasn’t in the pain I was a few years ago. So, I was just excited to be on that floor. I worked very hard this summer. And I still work hard during the season to still try and maintain my body. I really tried to understand my body, and I put a lot of work into it. So, to see benefits of it, it’s a good thing. I just want to keep it going.”
As a player who made a name for himself attacking the rim, Wade still has the second-highest field-goal percentage (56.1) in the league on drives to the basket (minimum five per game) behind only Stephen Curry (57.1), according to the NBA’s player tracking system. At times, Wade said as he smiled, he has had to remind himself he can still finish at the basket.
“A few years ago, I stopped going all the way,” Wade said. “I really used my floater. I don’t even really have to use that as much as I’ve shot it this year. I can probably get closer to the basket and just get more comfortable with that because I’m healthier than I was, than I have been. But it makes the game a lot different for me. I’m learning this new body right now and trying to figure it out.”
So far, Wade says, that process has been a lot more fun than what he had to deal with before that.
“It’s very taxing mentally when you have to play through pain, when every movement is painful,” Wade said. “It’s very, very, very taxing. But when it’s not, man, you can just play basketball. And it’s the joys of the game — you enjoy it.”
There were 25 players in the NBA shooting better than 40 percent from three-point range through Dec. 31, and Chris Bosh was one of them.
Bosh (40.6 percent from three-point range entering Friday) made it a goal this season to shoot better than 40 percent, a lofty goal considering he has only attempted more than 100 threes in each of the two previous seasons after putting up a career high 74 (he made 28.4 percent) in the Heat’s last championship season. He shot 44.4 percent from three in December compared with 35.6 percent in November.
“I’ve figured some things out, I think,” said Bosh, who was 11 of 15 from three-point range over the Heat’s final three games of 2015. “It’s just knowing where my shots are coming from, having the confidence and taking my time, shooting it. I think I was getting in too much of a rush before. God blessed with me an ability to read and react. Mixing up the drives with the shots has greatly helped in terms of getting the space and the time, seeing it two plays ahead. Some of it is just making shots. Sometimes you’re going to get hot. Sometimes you’re not. But I’m a pretty good shooter.”
Coach Erik Spoelstra said he’s “always been fine” with Bosh’s three-point shot selection.
“He works at it, is diligent with it,” Spoelstra said. “Now he knows where he’s getting his three-point looks. This process started four years ago.”