Few people spent more time with Dwyane Wade when he was with the Miami Heat than Erik Spoelstra, who worked with Wade on his jump shot when he was a young player, and then became his head coach for his final two championships.
So, naturally, Wade’s homecoming tonight is going to be almost as special for the Heat’s coach as it is for the 12-time All-Star and future Hall of Famer.
“This is different,” Spoelstra said after Thursday afternoon’s after shoot-around at AmericanAirlines Arena. “I don’t want to take away from anybody else that’s had something like this, but that’s a long time to be working with somebody together and growing together and getting to know a player and his family. You share so much love for a player. I can only speak for myself -- I haven’t been through something like this before.”
Spoelstra, who said it took him about a week to get over Wade’s decision to leave the Heat for the Chicago Bulls this summer, said he knows it’s going to be emotional for him to finally see Wade play in person in another uniform.
So, there’s a chance he may try and keep himself busy during what will probably be the most emotional moment of the night.
“I don’t know if I’m going to watch the [video] tribute,” Spoelstra said. “I’ll probably be in the huddle. I don’t get emotional about anything expect for these kinds of things.”
“There’s not a text book on this,” he continued. “I don’t know what to expect. I think it will be great. I think there will be electricity in the building. I think there will be great response to Dwyane as there should be. I’m expecting pretty much all the above.”
Spoelstra, 46, discussed the first time he met Wade – at his draft workout for Heat. Spoelstra called it uneventful compared to what it was like seeing Wade’s highlights leading Marquette to the Final Four.
“I remember we were all watching film of him back then and he was electrifying during that tournament – a one man wrecking crew that put a team on his back,” Spoelstra said. “It was a very well coached team, great role players and a really exciting run they had. But you could see his multitude of talents.
“Fast forward to his draft workout, ‘This is that guy?’ Then as you got to know him you realized ‘Yeah, he’s the kind of guy you need 10 players out there.’ Just a real competitive challenger and that’s when you see him rise to most levels most players can’t get to.”
Spoelstra said he’s given Heat players some advice in guarding Wade Thursday night: “Stay down” and don’t fall for his pumpfakes.
“Don’t spectate on him,” Spoelstra said. “It should be exciting. He’s a Hall of Famer, one of the all-time greats. These are the moments you want to cherish and remember. If you’re a competitor, once you get out between the lines the ultimate respect you can show someone is going at them and competing against them every single possession and getting into that battle.
“Our young guys are wired that way so I’m sure they’re excited about it.”