Dwyane Wade is back.
After two injury-riddled seasons, Wade showed that he is healthy, explosive and dominant again this summer in Beijing, helping the U.S. Men's Senior National Team win gold as the team's leading scorer and arguably, its best player.
"Being healthy," Wade told New York Newsday, "my game picked right back up to where it left off."
And as we saw in the 2006 Playoffs, a healthy Dwyane Wade is as good as it gets in this league.
Before you even look at the rest of the Miami roster, witnessing Wade's performance in China will have you thinking that the Heat can get back to the playoffs right away. He was that good and he's back to being one of the five best players in the world. You can't stay in front of him when he wants to get to the bucket, and his jumper is ever-improving.
Realistically, after the top four or five teams, the Eastern Conference is wide open. So, going from 15 wins to the postseason is certainly feasible with a rejuvenated Wade.
"It's going to be tough," Wade said, "but we're going to compete all year and get our playoffs."
Of course, other than Wade, Udonis Haslem is the only current Heat player who won the NBA title (Dorell Wright was on the roster, but didn't play) with Miami three seasons ago. Even Hall of Fame coach Pat Riley has moved back upstairs (permanently or otherwise) to the front office. In addition, with the decline/departure of Shaquille O'Neal and the decline/departure of Jason Williams, the Heat have major holes at the center and point guard positions.
And this is still a team that was 10-41 with Wade last season.
But they have Haslem, Shawn Marion and No. 2 pick Michael Beasley, a solid trio of forwards. With that hole at the five (one which retread Jamaal Magloire is not going to fill), new coach Erik Spoelstra will likely play the three forwards together often in order to get his best players on the floor. And trading one of them is always a possibility.
Filling the hole at the point may be more difficult. Chris Quinn, who started 25 games last season, may be the default starter, but rookie Mario Chalmers, the 34th pick from Kansas, will get a shot at the job. Either way, Wade will be asked to shoulder some of the ball-handling duties.
But more touches for Wade is probably a good thing. He's ready to get back to the career arc that had him at the top of the basketball world after just three seasons. The supporting cast isn't quite the same (where have all the shooters gone?) as it was then, but the star is shining as bright as ever.
-- John Schuhmann