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Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade, Erik Spoelstra deny player-coach rift

There are times when Dwyane Wade doesn’t even want to look at Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.

Does that mean there is a growing divide between the Heat’s most beloved player in franchise history and the hard-working coach who has spent his career with the organization? It’s actually quite the opposite, according to Wade.

“It’s just like a family,” Wade said after the Heat’s victory against the Lakers on Thursday night. “Just like everyone’s family, you love your family at times and sometimes you don’t want to talk to them. This team is like a family.

“We all have those moments where we love each other, and the other times where we might look the other way when the guy’s coming, but that’s who we are. But we love each other, we respect each other and we all have one common goal and that one common goal is to win.”

Spoelstra and Wade had a well-documented “family moment” during the Heat’s six-game road trip. During the fourth game of the trip — a loss to the Utah Jazz — Spoelstra kept Wade on the bench while the Heat rallied from a 19-point deficit. After the game, Wade called his absence during the game’s final period a coaching decision and later posted a cryptic message on his Twitter account that seemed like passive-aggressive commentary.

“The high road … isn’t always high …,” Wade wrote.

The Heat canceled practice the next day in San Francisco, and Wade wouldn’t explain the Twitter post Wednesday morning during the team’s shootaround at the University of San Francisco. If Spoelstra was trying to send a message to his team by sitting Wade and Chris Bosh against the Jazz, then it seemed to have the desired effect. The Heat blew out the Warriors on Wednesday night and manhandled the Lakers on Thursday.

“Hopefully we can … put to rest everything that happened the other night,” Spoelstra said after the Heat’s victory against Golden State.

On the surface, the locker room tension the Heat experienced during its West Coast swing suggested a strain in the relationship between Wade and Spoelstra. If anything, Spoelstra said it strengthened it.

“You better go through that stuff in the regular season,” Spoelstra said. “If you don’t experience those things and then all of [a] sudden it happens in the playoffs — I’ve seen teams that have blown up because of minor things that they couldn’t manage because that was the first time they went through it.

“So I like it. I like it when you have tough times. I don’t search for them during the regular season, but it definitely builds character.”

The history between Spoelstra and Wade has fostered one of the more unique coach-player relationships in the NBA. Spoelstra was an assistant when the Heat drafted Wade. During Wade’s early years, Spoelstra worked with Wade one on one during practice sessions. When Pat Riley named Spoelstra head coach, Wade gave the decision his blessing.

“We’ve been through everything — 10 years. In some ways it has gone by like that,” said Spoelstra, snapping his fingers, “And in some ways it feels like 20 years.”

The family dynamic — not to mention Wade’s propensity to wear his emotions on his sleeve — surfaced during Game 3 of the 2012 Eastern Conference semifinals. During the game, Spoelstra challenged Wade during a timeout, and Wade stormed out of the huddle. Much was made of the dust up, but Wade bounced back from a poor game to score 30 points in Game 4 against the Pacers.

If nothing else, Spoelstra knows exactly how to the get the best out of Wade. Seen from that perspective, you couldn’t ask any more from a coach.

“We’ve seen each other in all the different circumstances of competition — the best, the worst and everything in between — and that helps you grow a relationship when you need that trust when there’s the most pressure, in the playoffs,” Spoelstra said.

“It’s best for both sides that Josh look at other options,” agent Merle Scott told The Miami Herald. “The Heat believes it needs something different than what Josh can offer. The door hasn’t been closed on a return down the road.”

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