(SportsNetwork.com) - Going back to last season, Dwyane Wade's knee issues
have provided the one big question mark for the Miami Heat in their title
Well, if Wade's play for just over the last month is indicative of what we'll
see from the 10-time All-Star come playoff time, then you certainly have to
like the Heat's chances to become the first team to three-peat since the
Shaquille O'Neal-Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Lakers accomplished that feat in
Since the start of February, Wade has played in 10 of the Heat's 13 games like
his former superstar self. The Heat won nine of the 10 while he averaged 21.6
points, 5.4 assists and 5.2 rebounds, and shot a phenomenal 61 percent from the
His best game just happened to come against the toughest opponent as he shot
11-of-17 from the floor and put up 24 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds and
three steals in the Heat's 22-point rout of the Thunder in Oklahoma City.
Wade is moving extremely well and the game looks very easy to him right now.
You don't see as many explosive, athletic moves to the hoop as in the past, but
he's overpowering defenders with his post-ups and his mid-range game has been
"The worst-kept secret is the fact that he has worked on his game and
developed his game for the last three years to not only reinvent himself, but
more importantly add a skill set that is important for this group," Heat coach
Erik Spoelstra said. "He couldn't just be the same player that he was before,
the way this team has been put together. It has been a long steady process of
developing his post-up game and mid-range game."
The Heat are peaking during this great run by Wade, and he knows at this stage
of his career that his basketball IQ is more important than ever.
"As you get older, your game has to change and you have to think the game,"
Wade said. "More than anything when you're young, you just react. ... Now you
got to think the game, and so certain games when I'm frustrated with myself
because I'm not thinking the game like I should, but for the majority of it, I
do a good job of reading the game and thinking the game a little."
Keeping Wade's knees healthy is an ongoing process and Spoelstra is happy to
see that he's able to do the work right now that keeps him playing at a high
"That's really all I look at - more than the stats or the game," Spoelstra
said. "Is he able to do the strength training, the lifting, the corrective
exercises, the stretching, the treatments and the conditioning, and when hes
able to do all those things, it has meant good basketball out on the court.'
While Wade has been on this terrific run, his teammate, LeBron James, seems
very determined to hold onto that MVP trophy that looked like it was Kevin
Durant's until recently.
When Durant went on his tremendous tear during Russell Westbrook's absence, he
appeared to be on his way to ending James' two year reign as MVP.
But "The King" isn't going to let go of his crown that easily as evidenced by
his recent play and most notably his 61-point explosion against the Charlotte
Bobcats on Monday.
Over his last 12 games, in which the Heat are 10-2, James is averaging 31.7
points, 7.5 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 2.6 steals while knocking down 58 percent
of his shots from the floor.
"Oh (the race) is not decided," Wade said after the Heat's win in Oklahoma
City. "I don't think it was a message (to Durant). That's LeBron James being
LeBron James. ... No, the MVP race is a long, long ways from over."
- The Toronto Raptors basically don't get any national media attention. Yes,
they're in first place in the NBA's weakest division - the Atlantic - but
there's no denying how good they've been since dealing Rudy Gay to Sacramento.
The Raptors are 27-14 following the trade after being 6-12 prior to it, and
lead the Brooklyn Nets by 3 1/2 games. I think Toronto is the more talented
team, and with the Raptors having the more favorable schedule down the stretch
and holding the initial tie-breakers, it looks like they'll win their first
division title since the 2006-07 season.
While Brooklyn is at least likely to make the playoffs, it looks like their
New York counterparts - the Knicks - will be sitting home at that time. And
come the summer, we'll find out if Carmelo Anthony, who plans to opt out of his
contract to become a free agent, prefers a bigger bank account over a real
chance to win a championship, because that won't happen unless he signs
elsewhere for less guaranteed money.
The Knicks won't be able to make any major roster upgrades this offseason
because they're significantly over the salary cap, and even when the hefty
contracts of Amar'e Stoudemire, Andrea Bargnani and Tyson Chandler come off the
books following the 2014-15 season, I doubt a big-time free agent would sign
with them even if Anthony were there, considering the weak supporting cast that
comes with it.
- It's been a long time since Vince Carter was considered a star, but at 37,
he's still a very productive player and is one of the top sixth men in the
league. The eight-time All-Star, who is averaging 11.9 points in just over 24
minutes per game for the Dallas Mavericks, was excited last season about taking
over Jason Terry's role as a sparkplug off the bench after Terry signed
as a free agent with the Boston Celtics.
"I said, I can handle that one," Carter said. "We want to continue the scoring
and having the energy off the bench. I took it as a challenge, and it was
something I was willing to do.
"Once I figured out how to go about it - because it's different as a starter -
I wanted to take the Vinnie Johnson approach," he said, referring to the
former Detroit Pistons' sixth man known as the Microwave. "Just come in ready
to put the ball in the basket. It was tough in the beginning finding a rhythm
and being effective. It's easy now."
The Sports Network