Dwyane Wade has made an impact, even in a small way, on every Heat player he has touched. But that impact has been particularly meaningful for four young rotation players.
As Wade now enters retirement, here’s how those players say Wade has helped them, and Wade’s thoughts on each of them as he bids them farewell as teammates:
▪ Justise Winslow: Nobody on the team took it harder emotionally than Winslow when Wade left for Cleveland. Wade was like an older brother, and Winslow was somewhat confused when Wade bolted. But nobody has been more openly effusive about how Wade has helped him since he’s been back.
“When he got back last year, you saw the increase in my numbers,” Winslow said. “Just having him around has meant a great deal to me.”
The single biggest area where Wade has helped him?
“He’s taught me how to impact winning on every level, whether it’s in practice, getting guys going, keeping guys locked in during a game, making sure guys are connected on defense, pick and roll reads,” Winslow said. “He’s taught me how to make a winning impact ... His [last season] has been an inspiration and motivation for me.”
And this, too: “He’s helped me become a better man,” Winslow said.
Wade’s takeaway: “What made me proud watching him this year is how he put a lot of work not only into his game on the court, but his mental game as well, watching a lot of film, asking a lot of questions and then going out and applying it. That’s what you want to see from young players. And [the other thing] is he listens.”
▪ Josh Richardson: The most valuable lesson from Wade? Varying the speed of his offensive game — not always going super fast or at the same frenetic pace.
“He’s helped my approach to the game every day and slowing myself down,” Richardson said. “He’s helped me find a good pace. But he’s helped with everything, really — taking care of my body, knowing how to prepare for the game, watching film, getting treatment.”
There was one seminal moment in their relationship that Richardson will always remember fondly:
“We were at American Social having dinner at the beginning of this summer, and we talked a little bit. He was saying I’m about to have a big year and I have a lot of potential to grow and I shouldn’t waste it. It was [encouraging] to hear that from him.”
Wade’s takeaway: “The kid is 25 years old. Each year, he’s taken a different responsibility of what the team has asked of him. One year is ‘we need you to be a lockdown defender.’ One year is, ‘we need you to hit open threes and we need you to lead the team in scoring.’ He’s been able to play each role asked of him. He’s always taken advantage of his opportunities.”
▪ Bam Adebayo: The most valuable thing Wade taught him?
“Being patient,” Adebayo said. “I was always with the second unit with him so he would get blitzed [on the pick-and-roll] and he said, ‘When I throw it to you, be patient, take your time, relax. If you’ve got moves you can do, do it, but be patient, give them an up fake every once in a while.’”
Adebayo said that was particularly meaningful to him coming from a future Hall of Famer.
“So now you’ll notice,” Adebayo said, “that when I catch in the paint, I will up fake once to see if the [defender] will jump. It’s starting to slow down for me and it’s because of D-Wade.”
Adebayo will always remember snapshots from Wade, including a text message before the Heat played Denver last season.
Wade suggested a play he thought that he and Adebayo could combine on in that game, when [Mason] Plumlee “would go for a screen and we would slip [the screen] and it would be easy dunk,” Adebayo said.
“He was like, ‘We need to get one of these.’ And the very next day, it happened!”
Wade, on what he has tried to accomplish with Adebayo: “The biggest thing, similar to Justise, is to help him slow down and see the game a little different. We know when he’s up top [near the rim], he’s one of the best. It’s other parts of the game, trying to help him with. He listens and he knows how to apply it.”
▪ Derrick Jones Jr.: Jones can rattle off a list of valuable takeaways from Wade — how to eat right, acting more maturely, taking better care of his body, not letting opponents rattle him or speed him up. And oh yes, how to work the baseline.
“All the times I slide on the baseline, he’s the person I stole that from,” Jones said smiling. “We talk about it a lot.”
Though observers might not notice, Jones said Wade actually guides him during games through words or hands motions. That’s what Jones will most treasure as Wade exits into retirement.
“Most of the time when we’re on the floor together, he would pull me aside to let me know what he sees with my game and things I don’t see that he sees because he’s watching the plays,” Jones said. “He lets me know something and I try it a different way and it works, and then I look right at him and he was right.”
Here’s what has impressed Wade about Jones, beyond the superior athleticism and high energy:
“From day one, he came to me and said, ‘Anything you got for me, tell me. I want to be better. I want to be a player in this league.’
“Watching the growth from last year when I first got here to now, you can see the potential,” Wade said. “Everyone knows airplane mode and all those things but there are other things I love about him. He’s one guy on our team, we never run a play for him. He’s always putting his imprint on the game, always making an impact for the most part.”
As Wade ends the playing phase of his life, he’s proud about what he has been able to instill in each of them, though he seeks no credit. He also wants to remain in touch with each of them, though Erik Spoelstra said Wade will be living on the West Coast.
“This is a good core to build around,” Wade said. “I just want to see them have success. I don’t need any [credit]. I just want to be able to leave them with something, some impressions for them to be able to take forward, myself and obviously UD [Udonis Haslem]. You want them to be able to be proud to say, ‘My vets were Udonis and Dwyane Wade and they taught me X,Y and Z in my career.’”
The Heat’s young core will assuredly be able to say that about those two.