Wade turns fo­cus on play­off push

The Commercial Appeal - - Front Page - Tim Reynolds AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

CHAR­LOTTE, N.C. – Dwyane Wade is adamant that the end of this sea­son will be the right time for him to bid farewell to the game of bas­ket­ball.

The game of bas­ket­ball spent the week­end dis­agree­ing with him.

Wade’s fi­nal All-star ap­pear­ance as a player is now com­plete, a four-day trip that had tes­ti­mo­ni­als, cel­e­bra­tions, mo­ments with his fam­ily, count­less pho­tos and chats with some of bas­ket­ball’s roy­alty, and one more lob to Lebron James for good mea­sure. He scored seven points in his fi­nal NBA All-star Game, help­ing Team Lebron get a 178-164 vic­tory over Team Gian­nis.

“If you could wake up and say, ‘This is how I would like my per­fect day to go, this is how I would like my per­fect Al­ls­tar week­end to go,’ then this was it for me,” Wade told The As­so­ci­ated Press. “This was ex­actly what I en­vi­sioned, what I wanted when I knew I had this op­por­tu­nity. And it’s been even more than I thought it could be.”

The score and the stats from the week­end will be for­got­ten.

The mo­ments won’t be, at least not any­time soon. And with 26 games left in the Heat sea­son, the NBA is not ready to say good­bye.

“He’s been one of the guys who’s been a leader in our league, an am­bas­sador world­wide as well as a cham­pion,” said Los An­ge­les Lak­ers Pres­i­dent Magic John­son, one of many who lauded Wade at a din­ner to start the week­end. “D-wade em­braced be­ing the face of the league for a long time. … I think the league has done well by him this sea­son, with every arena hon­or­ing him, but also we’re go­ing to miss him.”

So this week­end was about the past, present and fu­ture.

A few hours af­ter land­ing in Char­lotte, Wade thought he was headed to a din­ner with some fam­ily and close friends. When he ar­rived with his wife Gabrielle Union and their new daugh­ter Kaavia James, he quickly re­al­ized that he’d been mis­led by his in­ner cir­cle – and din­ner for a few was be­com­ing din­ner for a few hun­dred in­stead.

It turned out to be a five-hour party, re­plete with a red car­pet ar­rival, him seated on a throne and si­mul­ta­ne­ously drink­ing from two glasses of red wine at one point, laughs, hugs, tears and capped by karaoke – one of his off-court ob­ses­sions. Speak­ers in­cluded Caron But­ler, Dono­van Mitchell, Isiah Thomas, Tim Har­d­away, his par­ents Jolinda Wade and Dwyane Wade Sr., Charles Barkley, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony and Heat Pres­i­dent Pat Ri­ley.

They all told dif­fer­ent sto­ries with the same theme: Wade has meant so much, to so many, for so long.

“No one – when I say no one, I mean no one – has done the things at a pro­fes­sional level out of Chicago on a bas­ket­ball stage bet­ter than Dwyane Wade,” said Thomas, who like Wade is a proud son of the Windy City.

Ri­ley spoke longer than any­one, nearly 20 min­utes, and when he got done he tried to play off Wade’s “One Last Dance” theme for his fi­nal sea­son by hav­ing the sounds of Donna Sum­mer’s “Last Dance” blare through the room where rev­el­ers dined on filet mignon and sea bass.

The mu­sic played. Wade and Ri­ley hugged. Ri­ley kissed the most im­por­tant draftee of his ca­reer on the cheek. “He’s the great­est,” Ri­ley said. Wade even sa­vored the reg­u­lar Al­ls­tar machi­na­tions – in­ter­views, prac­tice, ap­pear­ances. Fans screamed for him and clam­ored for him to sign any­thing and ev­ery­thing when he walked into me­dia day on Satur­day, and he couldn’t go any­where without some­one ask­ing for a photo or au­to­graph.

“To be here, for me to be able to choose him to be part of Team Lebron, for him to be here this week­end, it’s a bit­ter­sweet mo­ment, ob­vi­ously,” said James, Wade’s cham­pi­onship-win­ning team­mate in Mi­ami and later a team­mate again in Cleve­land. “The bit­ter part of it, that this is his last week­end be­ing in All-star Week­end and know­ing that his jour­ney is com­ing to an end as far as a bas­ket­ball player. But the sweet mo­ment is that we’ve got so much more life to live to­gether, and we will con­tinue that.”

The big­gest thrill Wade got of his cel­e­bra­tion week­end, how­ever, had noth­ing to do with his own play.

His kid was a star on the All-star stage.

From throw­ing lobs with his dad and James at prac­tice Satur­day, get­ting an on-court tu­to­rial from reign­ing NBA MVP James Har­den, pos­ing for pho­tos him­self, even be­ing on the court for warmups at the All-star Game and slap­ping fives with Blake Grif­fin among oth­ers, Zaire Wade – a bud­ding star – soaked up ev­ery­thing he could all week­end.

That was pre­cisely what his father wanted.

“Hav­ing Zaire by my side every step of this road is some­thing that I re­ally wanted to do,” Wade said. “But I couldn’t imag­ine it’d be this cool. He was trend­ing world­wide. That’s, like, in­sane.”

Wade’s last reg­u­lar sea­son with the Heat ends April 10. Af­ter that, the Heat hope, there’s a play­off run. And then he’s done, sans for one fi­nal game – a 1on-1 matchup against Zaire, the high school ju­nior who has mul­ti­ple Di­vi­sion I of­fers al­ready and will likely draw more this sum­mer be­fore he com­mits to a col­lege this fall. Zaire has never beaten his dad. “He can’t beat me now,” Zaire Wade said. Time will tell on that. But first, there’s the sea­son to fin­ish. Wade will take a cou­ple of days off be­fore prac­tice re­sumes Wed­nes­day, ready for some sun and some golf. When the play­off push re­sumes Thurs­day in Philadel­phia – and Mi­ami has some work to do in the Eastern Con­fer­ence race – Wade in­sists he will be ready. “My mind will be right,” Wade said. What­ever hap­pens, though, the legacy is clearly se­cure.

“There will never be an­other Dwade,” John­son said. “And that stretches fur­ther than Mi­ami. That’s all over the world.”

Team Lebron guard Dwyane Wade of the Mi­ami Heat han­dles the ball dur­ing an All-star game prac­tice Fri­day in Char­lotte, N.C. BOB DONNAN/USA TO­DAY SPORTS

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.