Friday ended with a 15-point road loss to the Lakers, but it was what happened that afternoon that had the Heat smiling at the end of the night.
Retired guard Dwyane Wade, who has relocated to the Los Angeles area with his family, spent time with Heat players and staff and even spoke to his former team hours before tip-off about the importance of upholding the team’s culture he helped build during his 16-season career.
With seven new faces on the Heat’s roster — including rookies Tyler Herro, Kendrick Nunn, KZ Okpala and Chris Silva — Wade’s message was important.
“Having him just talk to the team, it resonates so much,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said following Friday’s loss to the Lakers. “But for the new guys, I mean you can’t weigh that in gold. That’s priceless. When he talks about Miami Heat culture and what it means to wear a Miami Heat uniform and a legacy of all the players that put in the blood, sweat and tears to build up this culture. When you have the face of the franchise saying that to the young guys, that’s a powerful message.”
Wade — who is the Heat’s all-time leader in points, games played, minutes played, assists and steals — continued to spend time with his former teammates and coaches throughout the day. Wearing a red and black outfit to support the Heat, Wade sat a few seats away from the team bench and was in the locker room after the game.
Wade sat alongside Fox Sports Sun Heat announcers Eric Reid and John Crotty for the entire third period and offered his first impressions of the team, which is 6-3.
“I love how unselfish the Heat are. I really love this team,” Wade said during the broadcast, with the Heat idle until Tuesday’s home matchup against the Pistons. “They are going to go through some ups and downs throughout this year. They’re so unselfish. They play for each other. It’s great to see.”
The Heat entered Sunday averaging the seventh-most assists in the league this season at 25 per game, which is tied with the Raptors. Miami’s prized offseason acquisition Jimmy Butler, who is close friends with Wade, is averaging a team-high 5.5 assists per game.
“I love JB,” Wade said. “I always felt once I got an opportunity to play with him in Chicago, I felt this was a great place for him. He looks right at home, looks comfortable.
“Jimmy Butler is an underrated passer. With Tyler, Nunn, Bam [Adebayo] and Goran [Dragic] coming off the bench, it allowed Jimmy to not put pressure on himself to score 30 a night and be a playmaker. This is the Jimmy Butler I love, out there playing free. He’s tough.”
Wade addressed other topics during his Fox Sports Sun appearance:
▪ On Nunn, who is averaging 16.6 points on 45.7 percent shooting over his first nine NBA games as an undrafted rookie: “That’s what you love about sports, guys like Kendrick Nunn getting an opportunity. Once he got that opportunity, he took advantage of it. He has that Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade kind of mentality. He’s one of my favorite players to watch on the team. He’s a Chi-Town guy. I’m enjoying watching his play and watching his success. [Nunn’s number 25] is a number I used to wear in high school.”
▪ On center Bam Adebayo, who is one of six NBA players this season averaging at least 12 points, nine rebounds and four assists: “Talking to him earlier today, all he talked about is being there for his teammates to do what they need him to do each and every night. His growth has been incredible. He stays in the gym. He really has bought into the coaching staff and everything they told him day one. He was raw, athletic [when Miami drafted him]. Now he has the ball more than anyone because everyone trusts him. You see him working before and after practice. He’s a special person and definitely has turned into a special player.”
▪ On Dragic, who is averaging 16.7 points in his new sixth man role this season: “I love Goran. He’s one of my favorite people, favorite teammates I ever had. All he wants to do is win. Unbelievable teammate. Goran is a starting point guard in this league on multiple teams. So he gets opportunity to play against [lot of backups]. He has a lot of tricks up his sleeve.”
▪ Asked by Fox Sports Sun’s Jason Jackson if he misses the game, Wade said: “You miss the game, of course, but I have no regrets about not being on the floor. I love the new guys getting this opportunity. If I was here, Kendrick Nunn may not have the opportunity that he has. For me, it was about me moving out of the way and letting the next generation get this opportunity to showcase their talents and abilities.”