'Old guy' rules: Dwyane Wade makes his point

Wade reaches milestone, Heat topple Cavs (1:31)

Dwyane Wade reaches 20,000 points in his career with 24 points in the Heat's 122-101 win over the Cavs. (1:31)

MIAMI -- At one point Saturday night, Dwyane Wade looked into the AmericanAirlines Arena crowd and spotted former Miami Heat teammate and retired NBA guard Eddie Jones.

When Wade arrived in Miami as the fifth overall draft pick in 2003, Jones was the Heat's veteran leader who passed down advice and provided big moments ever so often in the final stages of his career. Back then, Wade never imagined he'd someday be in Jones' position.

Funny how fast time flies.

"I looked over at Eddie in the stands and said, 'I'm the old guy now,' " Wade, 34, said of the message he mouthed to Jones from the court. "When I came here, I called him the old guy all the time."

With age comes milestones, and Wade reached a significant one when he surpassed 20,000 career points in Saturday's 122-101 thumping of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. It was a performance that delivered multiple messages for the Heat (40-29), who have won 11 of 16 games since the All-Star break -- their most productive stretch of the season.

From an individual perspective, Wade needed this type of breakthrough after struggling with his shooting the past three weeks. The Heat's all-time leading scorer was also coming off a disastrous game in a home loss to Charlotte on Thursday, missing 10 of 13 shots, including a potential 3-pointer in the final second that would have forced overtime.

At Friday's practice, Wade said he had been in the league far too long to allow a missed opportunity in the clutch to linger. But he also admitted that there are still times when he overanalyzes his struggles over a particular stretch, such as the shooting woes that have dogged him since the All-Star break. With his shooting having dipped below 40 percent over the previous 15 games, knocking down 10 of 17 shots for 24 points on Saturday was a refreshing confidence boost for Wade.

Even after the game, Wade continued a recent routine in which he pushes through a postgame workout in the weight room to help shock his body back into some semblance of a rhythm. But before that workout, Wade thanked his teammates and coaches for tweaking the offense in recent days in an effort to get him back into a groove by getting him touches in transition or on the move in half-court sets.

Wade essentially told his teammates that it takes a village to reach a milestone.

"I know how many people work to allow you to be great, whether that's on the basketball floor or off the basketball floor," Wade said. "I try to do little things around here for the people I may not see every day, and I just thank them. I thank them for allowing me to do the things that I've done."

That thankfulness has manifested itself in multiple ways. Two months ago, Wade rented the serves of a local food truck caterer for three hours and purchased lunch for hundreds of arena employees. Those pleasantries extended to the days leading into the game against the Cavaliers.

"We talked a little after the last game to try to get him easier shots, to get him going a little more at the beginning [of the game]," point guard Goran Dragic said. "He was awesome. I'm happy for him to be part of this, too. He deserves it. He [came into the locker room] and said, 'Thank you for getting me so many [shots] so that I can get that number. He's a Hall of Famer."

Wade couldn't avoid getting a bit emotional during the game. After scoring 10 points in the first half, Wade was only three shy of 20,000 when the Heat opened the third quarter with a 21-point lead. He made a jumper at the 11:02 mark, and then another on an assist from Dragic to reach the milestone with 10:21 left in the third quarter.

During the next break in action, Wade was honored on the arena screen and received a standing ovation. After the next timeout, a video tribute was played that included several of Wade's highlight plays from a Heat career that includes three NBA titles and five trips to the Finals.

"For me, the coolest thing is that I've been wearing this one jersey -- and I got all 20,000 of those in a Miami Heat uniform," Wade said. "I never came into the NBA thinking about 20,000 points or a lot of things I've accomplished. It's all amazing being a part of the history of the game."

What made the moment even more special was that it came against James, a longtime friend and former teammate with the Heat. Wade said he stopped thinking about individual career achievements once James and Chris Bosh came to Miami in free agency in 2010, because of the sacrifices they all would have to make to be successful collectively.

The loss kept James winless in three visits to Miami since he returned to the Cavaliers in 2014, but the four-time league MVP was able to separate the sting of a blowout defeat from the pride he took in sharing the moment with Wade.

"To be on the floor with my brother when he gets 20,000 points in his career is just a testimony to the type of guy he is, the type of professional he's been," James said. "It's big time for the brotherhood."

It was also a big-time experience for the Heat, who are 4-3 against the Cavaliers the past two seasons. If the playoffs started now, the Heat and Cavaliers would be on the same side of the Eastern Conference playoff bracket and in line for a potential showdown in the second round.

Wade was just as encouraged about the Heat getting their 40th win of the season as he was to become the 41st player to reach 20,000 points. He couldn't mention the resilience he has shown over the course of his career without also pointing out the growth the Heat have shown since the beginning of the season.

For both Wade and the Heat, there's pride in their persistence.

"We're just a tough team that grinds it and figures out a way to be there [at the end]," Wade said. "I like this team. I like it a lot. We've grown a lot. And that's been developing all year."

The roster's resident old guy has been there every step to lead the way.