Sun Sentinel Columnist
10:48 PM EDT, May 12, 2013
Does he miss shooting 20 times a game?
"Sometimes I do,'' Dwyane Wade says.
Miss being one of the game's top scorers?
"Sometimes I do,'' he says.
Miss being the face of the Heat?
"Sometimes I do,'' he says.
This is after practice Sunday afternoon, and Wade shrugs while sitting on a folding chair, icing his knees and his ego.
"I'm just being honest,'' he said. "I'm human. But at the end of the day, that doesn't make me happy, taking 20 shots a day. If you remember, after the first-round loss to Boston [in 2010], I said, 'This first-round exit will not happen again.'
"That was a series I could shoot whenever I wanted. But that didn't complete me. That didn't make me happy."
He thinks of that Boston series?
"When I have to calm myself down a little,'' he says.
We're at the conversational crossroads again with Wade. He's taken two free throws in three games against Chicago. He had one shot at the half in Game 3 and seven for the game (making five).
How much is his knee limiting his game in yet another spring? How much is he simply unselfishly deferring to LeBron James? Does it matter so long as the Heat keep winning?
"He's reading this series very well,'' Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
That's true. No doubt. But the full truth is Wade's limited free throws speak of a different Wade, a less-aggressive Wade, a Wade that bears watching through these playoffs when the Heat need him to meet the moment. And he knows.
"I had a helluva championship series when we lost to Dallas,'' he said. "No one cared. I had a bad series against Chicago [in 2011], then a helluva last two minutes to clinch it in Game 5. It's all about winning."
Did Wade realize in Game 3's first half he took just one shot?
"Of course,'' he said.
And he thought?
"I'm 1-for-1, very efficient,'' he says.
Wade, when pressed, doesn't talk of shows. He talks of touches of the basketball. Quality touches. Touches where he can do something other than be a serviceable decoy.
"As long as we're winning, it's fine,'' he says.
It's not easy for superstars to do what Wade and Chris Bosh have in moving to the back seat for LeBron. Championship teams break up over such issues (the Lakers of Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant). Contending teams don't stay together over them (James Harden welcomed a trade from Oklahoma City for more money).
The difference is these Heat players assembled themselves as much as Pat Riley did. They invested in each other. Wade says he couldn't have accepted a lesser role five years ago. But now? At 31?
"I want to win now,'' he says. "I always wanted to win, but I still had a lot of individual stuff I wanted to prove. What, five years ago, I led the league in scoring. I had to prove that, that I could do certain things.
"Now the only thing I have to prove is that I can be part of a winning team — and win. You only play this game for so long and when you leave, what memories do I want to have? That's what I ask myself. The memories I want to have is of a championship team.
"That's why you make decisions like this. It's not easy. It's hard. If I was told five years ago I'd be in a playoff game and take seven shots and make five, hell, no.
"But at the end of the game, was I pissed about it? No. We won the game, had a great dinner and now are looking to Game 4."
Wade is asked whether he could still be the Alpha Dog, if necessary.
"I made the adjustment [to a secondary role],'' he says. "You start relying on that. Say LeBron was out for 10 games and I had to go back to that role, I'd be happy when he came back. You condition yourself to playing in a different way."
His knee hurts. Again. His game looks limited when compared to who he once was. Again. Maybe this is Wade's best feat. He hasn't just conquered his game, but his ego, too.
Then again, as he sat on the court at the University of Illinois at Chicago, he said applied humility isn't new to his game.
"Remember,'' he says, "I wasn't even recruited to play here, at UIC."
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