Posted Sep 13 2010 11:37AM
For just a minute, as they say, Dwyane Wade seemed to enjoy the ability to walk onto a basketball court and know that most of the eyes in the gym were focused elsewhere. No pressure to perform. No hits to take. Wade didn't even suit up, spending the night clad in black jeans and a black T-shirt while a bunch of his peers broke sweats and carried the load.
Wade went back to his roots in Chicago high school basketball Friday night, participating as an honorary captain in what literally was a "back to the future" event. For the third annual installment of its original program and documentary REPLAY, Gatorade staged a reunion game of two South Side powerhouses -- Bloom and Brother Rice -- whose 2000 super-sectional game ended on a controversial call involving the game clock and a controversial, last-second tip at the buzzer.
Bloom -- the team that ended Wade's high school career one round earlier that winter -- was awarded the victory, 42-40, but the dispute lingered for a decade. Until the rivals were chosen for the rematch game, with coaches, players and fans from both teams returning to either validate or correct the outcome. Members of the squads spent eight weeks in organized training for the exhibition, yet here still were lots of hands gripping shorts, bent over in heavy breathing after so many years away from competitive hoops.
None of that came from Wade -- the Miami All-Star guard and purported ringleader of this offseason's biggest free-agency news -- or Orlando center Dwight Howard. Wade sided with Bloom and Howard worked with Brother Rice, which got a bit of revenge with a 99-93 victory on the campus of St. Xavier University.
Before the game, Wade talked with NBA.com about his hectic summer and the expectations facing him, LeBron James, Chris Bosh and the rest in Miami:
NBA.com: What did you remember from the original 2000 game between Bloom and Brother Rice?
Dywane Wade: The game was a slugfest. Brother Rice had just knocked my team out my senior year and they were shooting the ball very well, so I was thinking it was going to be a high-powered offensive game. And it was just a, heh, terribly offensively performed game. It came down to this last play and Joe Chapman was able to tip the ball in. It was questionable: Did he get it off or didn't he get it off?
NBA.com: Have you ever had a game that you wanted to replay?
DW: Every game I've lost.
NBA.com: But you've contributed to some that other people would like to replay, too.
DW: Yeah, I'm sure. So it's a wash [laughing].
NBA.com: So it's OK with you if the Dallas Mavericks want to replay Game 5 of the 2006 Finals in 2016?
DW: Uh, that would have to be something I'd have to think about.
NBA.com: People have said that the Miami Heat this season are going to be professional sports' latest "rock tour." You and your teammates already have been in the spotlight for months. What has this been like?
DW: It's been a different kind of summer. I've really been focusing a lot on my foundation in Milwaukee and Chicago and Miami, doing a lot of things through that. In the midst of all that, I had to decide what team I was going to play for for the majority of the rest of my career. I'm also going through some family things as well [a custody fight for his two sons]. So it's been a different summer, but I've been adjusting to it and dealing with it as best I can. And still understanding what comes first. What makes that engine run. That's staying focused on basketball.
NBA.com: If this is a rock tour, you guys aren't even into rehearsals yet. Can you stand up to the attention and demands deep into June?
DW: I said last year at the end, when we got knocked out in Boston, that this would be my last first-round exit for a long time. I didn't know what was ahead of me, but I was ready to play into late June for a while. So we have the team that's capable of doing that. Now we just have to put it together. It is crazy, of course, the attention that we've been getting and we haven't laced up a pair of shoes together yet. We understand why. But we've also got to go on the court and make it happen.
NBA.com: How does this compare to when Shaquille O'Neal came to Miami in 2004? You've said yourself that was crazy.
DW: First of all, you understand you've been given an unbelievable opportunity. You're very thankful for it. It's amazing to know that when you go into all the cities, most of the games will be sold out. People will be coming to see you and really hate you or love you, but to see what's all the hype about. Or to see some of their favorite players play together. It's fun. Especially on the road, knowing you might run out and get a lot of boos. That's fun in professional sports. It was great times when we did it with Shaq and I think it's going to be even better now with this combination.
NBA.com: As a player who had to carry his team -- and so often had to pick himself up off the court while doing so -- do you see the addition of James and Bosh as a career-extender for you? As in lessening your load?
DW: No question about it, I do look at it as an extension to my career. It does take a little bit off you -- I don't have to go out and try to score 40 a night. I can play a little more within the flow of the game and pick my spots. So I do think it will extend me a little longer, that I can play, than before. And that's what my goal was: To play this game to the best of my ability as long as I can. And hopefully walk away from it healthy and only when I'm ready to. With this team and these guys, especially the younger guys, that helps me out even more.
NBA.com: Heat president Pat Riley fired back at some critics of this superstar convergence, telling them to "Get a life." But you have taken less grief than the others because, unlike James and Bosh, you stayed put and brought help to your original team. Have you noticed the better response?
DW: Well yeah, of course. I understand the whole dynamics of LeBron's situation and how it looks to people. I couldn't fathom to be in his position and to decide what he had to decide and go through. But at the same time, I had a decision to make as well. Of course my decision was Miami first, but I had to open it up to other teams as well. So yeah, I haven't got hit as much. But I've been up against my fair share anyway over the course of me being in the NBA, on- and off-court things. So I'm not looking for anything new to come my way.
NBA.com: Riley also claimed that your coach, Erik Spoelstra, is more "prepared" to coach a team like this than he [Riley] ever would have been. What do you think he means by that?
DW: I understand what he's saying. He's a great coach. He had a team like this before with Magic Johnson and the Lakers, he had that type of talent. I think for right now today, Coach Spo is able to relate a little bit differently than Coach Riley would be able to at this time.
NBA.com: Riley said you can expect to play some point guard.
DW: I played plenty of point guard in my day. And LeBron as well. I'm sure we will. I'm sure Mike Miller will. Of course Mario Chalmers is our starting point guard and then we have Carlos Arroyo, but we will be guys who will handle the ball a lot and get us into the offense and make plays for the other guys.
NBA.com Since you're given so much credit for team-building in bringing James and Bosh to Miami, do you have any other players targeted? Allen Iverson, Jerry Stackhouse and Flip Murray still are available as shooters.
DW: There are a couple good veteran guys out there who could probably help us. But right now, I think we're at the point where we have to see what we have as a team. Then see if we need something, more so than rushing to sign someone just because of a name or because of their history. It's got to fit with everything that we're doing. I'll leave all that up to Coach Riley -- he's done a good job of bringing in the right guys.
NBA.com: See now, when you call him Coach Riley, that's going to get rumors started.
DW: Well, I always call him Coach Riley, just for the respect factor.
NBA.com: When was the last time you, Chris and LeBron played together? The All-Star Game in Dallas?
DW: That would be it.
NBA.com: Any plans to get in a gym and play before camp opens, or will that be soon enough?
DW: No, no, we will. Everyone's trying to route their way back to Miami as well, and with my schedule I'm trying to route my way back as well and get into training-camp mode. So I'm sure guys will play together some before training camp starts.
NBA.com: Last thing: Setting Miami aside, what did you see as the most impressive offseason move by a team?
DW: I think the Bulls did a great job, bringing in Carlos Boozer and also bringing in what they needed for a team. They brought in a shooter in Kyle Korver. They brought in a great role player in Ronnie Brewer. They just kept adding good pieces to the team. There are a lot of teams that made solid moves. With losing Carlos Boozer, I thought Utah did a good job bringing Al Jefferson in, with the same sort of statistical numbers. So a lot of teams made good moves. The Lakers made some good moves beefing up their team, etc. So we weren't the only ones.
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