CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – There was no expectation of Dwyane Wade to carry the Cleveland Cavaliers when he signed prior to training camp, as the team internally viewed the future Hall of Famer as a bench piece.
The Wade experiment began as a starter, but has since seen the 35-year-old settle into a bench role, and boy has he ever found a home.
Wade did not quite carry the Cavaliers in Friday’s 118-113 win over the Los Angeles Clippers, LeBron James’ 39 points, 14 rebounds in tow. Still, the King’s right hand man has begun to show shades of the man that rode beside him from 2010 to 2014.
He turned in 23 points, but on a night where the Clippers’ Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan turned in their routine 34 rebounds collectively, Wade’s 11-rebound double-double may have secured the game.
“Yeah, that’s no surprise to me,” James said of Wade. “We know he’s been aggressive getting in the paint, double-double, rebounds, got some assists, a couple blocked shots. That’s just who he is, that’s what he’s done his whole career.”
At 6-foot-4, Wade may be the best shot-blocking guard the game has ever seen. With 811 career blocks, he entered the game 2nd all-time in blocks among guards, tied with Vince Carter, and trailing Michael Jordan at 893.
Block #812 came in the 4th quarter, trailing 101-97, when Wade swatted Griffin from behind, leading to a cherry-picking LeBron dunk on the opposite side. When the Cavaliers tied the game, 105-105, Wade found himself switched onto the 6-10 Griffin.
Griffin backed down, but had Wade in his face, missing the shot and allowing the game to go into overtime.
The savvy veteran knew Griffin’s tendencies, which helped overcome the mismatch.
“Just body up and make the shot tough,” Wade said. “I know that he likes to get in that position. I looked up at the clock when they threw it back to him, and it was 5 seconds. I just wanted to get back up on him and make it tougher.”
With his legs not near the explosiveness that propelled him to superstardom in his career, the savviness is beginning to show through as leader of the second unit. Wade posts up as if he is slow motion, with footwork among the trees that make it seem as if he came up in the game as a center.
Because of his ability to map out everything in front of him and manipulate them with his allotted steps, Wade has transitioned well into the latter part of his career. He may have gone 6-of-16 from the field, but much of his time with the ball was goading opponents into leaving their feet or reaching.
Wade posted an 11-of-13 night from the free throw stripe, something he said was imperative to getting things rolling.
“It felt good to get to the line just for rhythm,” Wade added. “For me, I’m a rhythm player, I’m all rhythm, and that definitely helped the flow of my whole game.
“I was just being aggressive. We were down a lot, and just trying to bring some energy, bring something to this team. It was good for us, because it allowed us to get some points, so that our defense could just chip away.”