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Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Watching Wade, and worrying

By Henry Abbott

Dwyane Wade
Mike Ehrman/NBAE/Getty Images
Early in Game 1, Dwyane Wade lacked explosiveness, and was blocked often.

With a minute and a quarter left in Game 1 of the 2011 NBA Finals, the Dallas Mavericks trailed by eight and needed a perfect play. Point guard Jason Kidd fired up a 3-pointer, which missed, bouncing to Dwyane Wade on the baseline. The Dallas Mavericks needed that ball, and Wade bobbled it a bit; desperate Mavericks swarmed. Wade took some time to secure the rock, looked down the court and noticed some open space.

Wade spun to the middle of the floor. And then he flew. Right down the middle of the floor, head bobbing, legs pumping, arms swinging -- leaving Mavericks in his wake.

It was the first moment of the entire game when Wade was clearly the most athletic guy on the floor. And after Wade's nifty dish to Chris Bosh, and a niftier avoidance of charging into Kidd, it was also the first time the Heat faithful began tossing assorted white things -- paper, plastic bags -- from the upper deck. After that play, the game was essentially over, and Wade, evidently, was back.

Wade had closed the Eastern Conference finals with three straight outings that featured not just some of the worst production of his playoff career (three-game totals: 15 turnovers, six assists, four steals) but also -- to my eye -- an unprecedented amount of aimless drifting. He had denied several times that he was injured, but something seemed to be happening. I had resolved to watch Wade every second of this game, to see if Dwyane Wade was playing like Dwyane Wade.

And though what will be remembered most from his Game 1 performance are a pull-up 3, an alley-oop pass to LeBron James and a block of Shawn Marion (to go with 22 points, 10 rebounds and six assists), this game was a mixed bag for Wade. He certainly was also the game's leader in walking and standing around, and even when he was more active than that he often exhibited limitations. For instance:
There were plenty more plays when Wade did little -- perhaps most telling of all is the number of plays when Wade did nothing worth noting at all.

Which all adds up to ... what exactly?

Two ways this can be taken: