Wading Through the Lane
Twenty-five years since the introduction of the three-point shot, some still get the three the old-fashioned way
April 7 -- He slices… He dices…He’s first in Heat franchise history in single-season free throws made with 537 in 2004-05.
Dwyane Wade has been shredding defenses all year in his second season out of Marquette. The 6-4 combo guard, dubbed “Flash” by teammate Shaquille O’Neal because of his speed and quickness, is averaging 24.5 points, 6.9 assists, 5.2 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.4 blocks per game in leading Miami to an Eastern Conference-best 56-19 record.
Free throws are an indicator of how often a player creates shots close to the basket. For a guard to do just that, he must first beat his defender off the dribble from the perimeter. Once in traffic, he must use his strength and leaping ability to operate around bigger players. It’s only then can a little guy collect buckets and trips to the charity stripe.
Given Wade’s explosive athleticism, it is easy to see why no other guard and only one other player -- the 7-1 O’Neal -- has attempted more free throws in the NBA this season.
“He’s ferocious,” said former Heat center Brian Grant last season. “As (Heat assistant coach) Bob McAdoo would put it, an alpha male. One of those guys that’s just gonna attack, attack, attack.”
It is common nowadays that the perimeter player falls in love with the long range jump shot, but that’s exactly a trap Wade has avoided. He’s attempted just 37 three-pointers all year, choosing instead to head to the basket. Even the NBA’s quickest guards rely heavily on the trey for offense, including Allen Iverson (295 attempts), Stephon Marbury (273) and Steve Francis (114).
Before the three-pointer made its debut in the NBA in 1979-80, players had the same mentality as Wade: Why take a 25-foot shot when you can take a 12-foot one?
The only three-pointer Jerry West and Bob Cousy knew of was the three-point play -- scoring a basket while being fouled and then converting the free throw.
"I had three-point range, like a lot of guys did," said Los Angeles Lakers Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor. "But the whole focus in those days was on getting closer to the bucket. If you had a 15-footer, you tried to get a 10-footer."
According the legendary Philadelphia 76ers statistician Harvey Pollack, Wade is first in the NBA in what is now commonly referred to as the “old-fashioned three-pointer” based upon the most current rankings through mid-January. He’s completed 32 in 39 chances, even going an 18-game stretch from Nov. 17-Dec 27 without missing on a free throw opportunity.
Wade’s old-school ways extend beyond the court as well. Despite being a 23-year-old living in the party capital of the world, he’s low key guy who’d rather spend time with his family than make appearances in glitzy South Beach.
“When I'm at home I try to spend as much time as possible with my wife and son,” he said. “I don't go out a lot. I go home after practice and spend time with them, so even when I go on the road, they know that when I get back, I'll be back at home with them.”
It’s a characteristic that particularly impressed Heat executive vice president Pat Riley when drafting Wade out of college.
“He is one of the most mature guys that I have ever met and he is from a great college program,” Riley proclaimed on Draft night.
In February, the coaching legend reflected on Wade’s progress since that day.
“Dwyane has come a long way,” Riley said. “We liked him enough to draft him with the fifth pick. He then stepped it up in the playoffs [last season] and now with the acquisition of Shaq, he is just emerging as a big star in this league.
“The sky is the limit with this kid. We are very, very fortunate to have him on our roster.”