Dwyane Wade said he has been around long enough to know the NBA All-Star Game is “a young man’s game.”
“No one wants to see fadeaways in the All-Star Game,” Wade quipped earlier this week.
Maybe not. But fans still want to see Wade.
The 34-year-old future Hall of Famer, three-time NBA champion and 12-time All-Star earned his 10th career start Thursday after receiving more votes (941,466) than any other guard in the Eastern Conference. The game will be played Feb. 14 in Toronto.
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Only former Heat teammate LeBron James (1,089,206) received more votes among players in the East. Wade finished fifth overall in votes league-wide behind Kobe Bryant (1,891,614), Stephen Curry (1,604,325), Kevin Durant (980,787) and James.
“You look at Kobe come to the end of his career and understand how special these last moments [of his are],” Wade said Tuesday. “I think I take a little bit more appreciation in the All-Star [selection] this year than I ever have, since my first one.
“[However] the votes end up, my fans were amazing this year. They showed a lot of support and love. I can’t do anything but say thank you.”
The East starters will be Wade, James, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George and Kyle Lowry, who received a late vote surge to surpass Kyrie Irving for a starting spot. The West starters will be Bryant, Durant, Curry, Kawhi Leonard and Russell Westbrook.
Wade’s 10th selection as an All-Star starter puts him in elite company. Only 14 other players have achieved that feat, and Bryant (15), James (12), Tim Duncan (12) and Kevin Garnett (11) are among the only active players.
A year ago, Wade’s string of nine consecutive starts in the All-Star Game came to end after Lowry zoomed past him late in voting. Lowry had some help from Canadian pop star Justin Bieber, who asked his 73.8 million Twitter followers to vote for the Raptors point guard.
Wade wound up being selected by coaches as a reserve but didn’t play because of a hamstring injury. This year, Bieber threw his Twitter weight behind Clippers guard Chris Paul.
Wade, meanwhile, pretty much earned his spot with a better-than-expected first half. Heading into Friday’s game in Toronto, he has missed only three games and is averaging 18.1 points, 4.6 assists, 4.1 rebounds and shooting 45.5 percent from the field.
“I think it just speaks to his consistent high level of play,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Tuesday of Wade’s sizable lead in the voting among Eastern Conference guards. “That’s hard to do in this league.
“There are so many good players. Competition is high. Dwyane has consistently stayed ahead of the curve in terms of preparing himself, putting in time to prepare his body. And I think you’re seeing a great year at his age. That’s from a lot of work.”
Wade, who changed trainers in the offseason and lost weight to lower the stress on his knees, also has a lot of fans, friends and supporters around the league.
Sunday, fans in Oklahoma City sang Happy Birthday as Wade warmed up before the game. And at just about every NBA arena, Wade still receives the loudest cheers of any Heat player from the opposing crowd.
This year, though, Wade said he’s looking forward to hearing the All-Star cheers for his friend Kobe, who will retire after the season. Asked if he thought Bryant would end up winning the game’s MVP award, Wade smiled and said: “If I was a betting man — a high percentage, very high percentage.”
“It’s going to be fun,” Wade continued. “It’s going to be a great environment. Obviously we don’t want him to be MVP because the East wants to win. But I think more than anything he’s going to enjoy the moments, the chatter back and forth, the different guys guarding him and then just the whole weekend, all the festivities he’s going to be a part of.”
▪ All-Star Game reserves, selected by the coaches, will be announced Jan. 28. Forward Chris Bosh (351,420) and center Hassan Whiteside (301,362) ranked seventh and ninth respectively among Eastern Conference frontcourt players in the final fan voting. But with the Heat sputtering toward the All-Star break, both could be overlooked.
Friday: Heat at Raptors
When, where: 8 p.m., Air Canada Center, Toronto.
TV, radio: ESPN, SUN; WAXY (790), WAQI (710, Spanish).
Series: Heat lead 49-24.
Scouting report: The Heat has won seven of its last eight games in Toronto, but comes in besieged by injuries. Center Whiteside (strained left oblique), forward Chris Andersen (sore left knee) and point guard Goran Dragic (strained left calf) are out. Five others are questionable: Forwards Josh McRoberts (bruised right knee) and Luol Deng (right eye), point guard Beno Udrih (neck strain), and guards Wade (sore shoulders) and Gerald Green (right knee tendinitis). The Raptors (27-15) have won six in a row and beat the Heat in Miami 108-94 on Dec. 18.