BY AL IANNAZZONE
OKLAHOMA CITY – Dwyane Wade feels most comfortable with the ball in his hands, being able to make plays for the Heat. He still relishes doing that, but he’s had to give up some of that and much more to LeBron James.
Wade remains hugely important to Miami, but the Heat is James’ team now.
Before the Heat and Thunder played Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Wade, who led Miami to the 2006 championship, acknowledged it was difficult to defer to James but the best thing for the team.
“It’s not an easy decision to make, one of the toughest decisions I had to make,” Wade said Tuesday afternoon. “(I did) a lot of thinking, just tried to think of where this organization wants to go, where I want to go as a player, what I’ve done already and what’s important to me. It boiled down to what’s important to me is winning and what’s the best chance of us winning?”
Wade actually credited Shaquille O’Neal with an assist in this decision. O’Neal was traded to the Heat in 2004 and was a force inside still, but he ultimately took a backseat to Wade, who was in his third season when Miami won its only title.
‘Ups and downs’
Wade averaged 22.1 points during the regular season, his lowest output since his rookie year. It was apparent during the season – in which Wade missed 17 games – that the Heat was shifting toward James, who won his third MVP.
But it’s been most apparent in the playoffs where James has dominated the ball and the games on most nights, leading the Heat to its second straight Finals appearance. Wade, who has a lingering left knee injury, has had to pick his spots to make an impact for Miami.
Wade averaged 22.9 points on 47 percent shooting in the first three rounds, but in his own words he he’s had “ups and downs.”
Adjusting to new role
He’s gotten off to slow starts and then come to life in the second halves of games. But Wade said too much was made about how quiet he was in the first half of Game 6 against Boston when James scored 30 of his 45 points.
Wade is adjusting to his new role. But he knows at times he’ll still get the ball with the game on the line – and he wants to be in that position.
“I’ve done it and I know I can do it,” Wade said. “It’s changing a mentality. You go back and forth a lot. I’m giving up a lot. There are times I still have to come through. I still know how important I am to this team. That’s all that matters to me.’’