Barry Jackson

Why Heat’s young veterans appreciate Wade and the player most excited about the return

Heat players appreciate how Dwyane Wade has helped them.
Heat players appreciate how Dwyane Wade has helped them. AP

Beyond his potential impact on the team, Dwyane Wade joining the Heat resonated with several Heat players for personal reasons.

All four young (under 30) Heat veterans who played with Wade previously expressed an appreciation for how Wade tried to help them with their careers before leaving for Chicago in July 2016.

We posed this question to those Heat players who previously played with Wade:

Where did Wade most help your game/career? All had a substantive answer:

▪ Josh Richardson: Wade’s advice was simple: Don’t always play at the same speed.

That message, also offered by assistant coach Chris Quinn, has been helpful in his enormous growth this season. There is now a proper pacing to his game, and the patience to set up defenders with a much-improved mid-range jumper.

“D-Wade used to tell me I can’t go fast all the time and I should pace myself,” Richardson said. “It’s about knowing when to go fast, when to go slow. That really [helped].”

▪ Tyler Johnson: Wade’s best advice, which Johnson has tried to incorporate, is don’t always do what opponents expect and try to outthink the opponent.

“Once guys know what your tendencies are, being able to exploit different things,” he said. “That’s one thing I took from him. Teams obviously scout Dwyane Wade every single game, and know what tendencies he has, yet he’s still able to produce his numbers at a high consistent level for many, many years.”

He said Wade used to ask him questions during games to keep him on his toes. “When I sit with him on the bench, he might ask what I see or I will ask him what he’s looking at in pick-and-rolls because we’re in a lot of similar situations.”

Miami Heat's Hassan Whiteside talks to the media about playing with Dwyane Wade in Wade's first game back as a Heat player Friday, Feb. 9, 2018.

▪ Hassan Whiteside: Yes, he said smiling, he appreciates how Wade’s deftly timed lobs have helped his career.

But he appreciates something else Wade imparted to him when he joined the Heat: The importance of patience, primarily being “patient in the post when I [get the ball], seeing how teams play me” and sizing up the defense before making a move.

He believes that has helped his post game.

▪ Justise Winslow: As a rookie, Winslow appreciated how Wade would show him how at 6-4 Wade could thrive in the post against taller players and “draw contact and still be on balance.”

It’s a part of Winslow’s game that he admits is in the “premature stages.”

That’s one reason Winslow is “super happy to have him back. He’s one of the best to learn that from. We would do post drills after practice together [as a rookie]. I gained from that year.”

Improving in the post and finishing around the rim would help Winslow diversify his offensive game, which is needed. Perhaps Wade can help him there.

Of Heat players who had not played with Wade before, James Johnson has seemed particularly excited.

“When I checked in with him against Milwaukee in his first game, I was like, damn, that’s one of the highlights of my career so far,” he said. “Every time anybody gave me recognition on how good my defense is, they always asked who my hardest cover is.

Wade talked about his shooting and his leadership role in the Heat locker room on Monday after his first full workout since coming back to Miami.

“It’s been the same man constantly. Dwyane Wade. And I told him that, too. I have been wanting to play with him. When I came here the first time [in 2016], I thought he would be a part of it and I would be able to get him off my scouting report.”

Johnson has played well since Wade’s acquisition, and Johnson and Erik Spoelstra believe that’s no coincidence.

“I think Dwyane will also help him get to his strengths,” Spoelstra said, “and also he can put the ball in Dwyane’s hands to make some decisions so James can just be a force of nature. I think that’s what you saw the last couple of games.​”

Johnson said something he took from Wade is helping.  

“Watching film on him to see what his tendencies are, it really helps my game out with spacing the floor,” Johnson said. “He’s a killer at sliding back and forth [between under the basket and the perimeter]. I took heed of that and in the last few games I’ve been trying to emulate all of that. So instead of trying to spread to the corner all the time, I stay down there in that dunk area, especially if they’re going to switch a small on me. Now if a shot goes up, they have to really box me out.”

One thing Heat players must guard against: Some of them seemed more likely to ball-watch, and stop moving, when Wade had the ball last week. That must change as he acclimates himself to new teammates and reacclimates himself to others.

QUICK STUFF

▪ In three games Wade has played for the Heat, an average of 4.7 percent of Miami-Fort Lauderdale homes have tuned in — 74 percent higher than the full-season average.

• In terms of plus-minus, two Heat players lead everybody else by a very large margin. Miami has outscored opponents by 100 with Kelly Olynyk on the court and by 79 points with Wayne Ellington on the court. Nobody else is even close.

▪ The Heat resumes practice Wednesday afternoon after a six-day break.

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