Bernucca: Like many adored stars, Wade gets a pass

Wade meets the PresidentWhen you’re an adored star in this league, you get a pass on a lot of things.

And Dwyane Wade got a pass for an absolutely rockhead play in Miami’s inexplicable loss to Boston on Saturday.

The Heat led by four with less than two seconds to play. On their home floor. Against the Celtics. And lost. In regulation.

And most of it was on Wade, who (a) faltered in the clutch; (b) made his own strategic decision without any input from the coaches; (c) poorly executed his strategy; and (d) opened a door to a loss that had pretty much been closed.

And Wade got a pass. Understandably, from his coach and teammates. But also from the fans and the media.

Before we get into Saturday’s idiocy on and off the court, let’s preface everything with this: Dwyane Wade has been a spectacular NBA player. With three championships, a Finals MVP and a scoring title, he is a no-brainer future Hall of Famer.

Furthermore, Wade has been eminently likeable for his entire career. He burst on the scene with a compelling playoff run as a rookie, elevated himself to superstar with a title two years later, became a successful pitchman for products, remained loyal to the Heat through lean years and injuries, and teamed with LeBron James and Chris Bosh to reach the pinnacle twice more. He has become an institution in Miami on a par with Dan Marino and Joe’s Stone Crabs.

Wade has gotten plenty of credit, all of it deserved. Some of it came as recently as Thursday, when he rallied the Heat past the Los Angeles Clippers with his best game of the season. “Wade gaining strength with each game” said one headline. “A vintage performance when Heat needed him most” said another.

On Saturday night, he should have gotten plenty of blame and hardly got any.

James had made two free throws to give Miami a 110-106 lead. Boston’s Gerald Wallace countered with a layup with 1.6 seconds left and fouled Wade a second later.

Wade is in his 10th season. He has been in countless endgame situations where score, clock and personnel have to be taken into account. Often those situations occur with the ball in play and defenders flying at him. For this one, he had several moments to consult with coach Erik Spoelstra or – at the very least – thoroughly think about what he was going to do.

And judging from his actions, he did neither.Dwyane Wade

Of course, if Wade had made both free throws, this space probably would have been filled by the Philadelphia 76ers failing to understand what tanking actually means or the Brooklyn Nets and their continued whistling in the dark. But Wade missed the first.

That meant the Celtics still had a candle’s chance in a hurricane of forcing overtime. But it also meant that if Wade made his second free throw, that was all they had. And the last time the Heat went to overtime, things worked out pretty well.

So Wade inexplicably decided to intentionally miss the second free throw, even though that was the only way the Heat could lose in regulation. He made the decision on his own, without asking Spoelstra if that was what he wanted, without asking James – who has a pretty strong grasp of score, clock and personnel – if it was good strategy.

It was good strategy – if the Celtics were out of timeouts. But they weren’t. As a veteran who often has the ball in his hands at the end of games, shouldn’t Wade have known that? Had he stepped off the line and asked the coaching staff, he certainly would have gotten an answer. But he didn’t.

Wade acted on his own and fired the ball at the rim to create a hard carom that would kill the remaining time. But he missed high, the ball never hit the rim and no time came off the clock.

“I was trying to hit the rim, down a little bit,” he said. “It didn’t go where it was supposed to go.”

By now, you probably know what happened. Wallace threw a crosscourt inbounds pass to the corner, where Jeff Green caught it and drilled a 3-pointer for one of the most unlikely wins in recent memory.

220px-Erik_SpoelstraAfterward, Spoelstra tried to protect his star. He discussed his team’s awful defensive posture throughout the game, citing karma and declaring the Heat “didn’t deserve to win.”

But when asked about Wade’s unilateral decision, Spoelstra showed his true feelings. He cut off the end of the question from long-time Heat beat writer Ira Winderman and put up both hands as if to say, “Don’t go there.”

“That’s not a matter,” Spoelstra sternly said. “But that clearly did not work.”

And that was that. Next question.

James was in the backcourt when Wade took strategic matters into his own hands. He also let Wade off the hook, although you got the sense that he may have taken a different approach.

“After I had seen him miss it, I was clear (with) what he was trying to do,” James said. “But I wasn’t down there communicating or seeing what he was trying to do or (saying) what to do in that situation.”

No, we didn’t expect Spoelstra or James to throw Wade under the bus. In clutch moments, he has won far more games than he has lost with both his physical and mental ability. But it was somewhat obvious from their reactions afterward that Spoelstra and James weren’t exactly crazy about Wade going rogue.

This isn’t the first time Wade has made terrible decisions and been let off the hook, which is how it goes when you are adored by the public and the media.

Late in Game 7 of the 2005 Eastern Conference finals, Wade took two ill-advised jump shots and committed a turnover as the Heat lost at home to the Pistons but was excused because he was playing with badly bruised ribs, which everyone knows affects your decision-making.

In Game 2 of the 2011 NBA Finals, he foolishly tried to dribble through backcourt pressure and committed a key turnover that gave Oklahoma City a chance to tie. But that game ended with a questionable non-call on James defending Kevin Durant, so everyone conveniently forgot about what Wade did.

lebron-wade1Think about the flogging Thunder guard Russell Westbrook took in Game 4 of the same series for fouling instead of defending after a late jump ball. Think about the criticism the virtually untouchable Gregg Popovich heard for not having Tim Duncan and Tony Parker on the floor in crunch time of Games 6 and 7 of last year’s Finals.

Better yet, think about this: If it had been James instead of Wade making the impromptu endgame decisions on Saturday night, do you think this would be the only place you would be reading about it? ESPN’s perennial paralysis by analysis might have pre-empted Monday Night Football.

Wade? He gets a pass on an indefensible bonehead play.

“It went the way it was supposed to go,” he said.

The game? Or the reaction to an adored player?

TRIVIA: Who was the first player in NBA history to score 70 points in a game? Answer below.


  1. says

    Interesting stuff.I agree with everything you say expect the conclusion. Are we really like Sam Witwicky? Is Sam Witcwicky really a reflection of the audience?Maybe he is, but I don’t see it because I’m not the target audience for Transformers (the movie is too stupid for me).

  2. Jack Jackson says

    This is the definition of a hack piece. What was your deadline on this Bernucca? Did you get paid by the word? So they lost one game in the early season… who cares? Even last year, they lost games due to stupid mistakes. Big deal – losses happen, mistakes are made. I like your two examples of previous mistakes Wade has made – but you also conveniently ignore his amazing acomplishments in even the past few seasons which if not for Wade, the Heat wouldn’t have back to back titles. What about his play in Game 7 against the Spurs? How about games 4, 5 and 6 against Indiana in 2012? If he even plays half as good as he did in those games, the Heat don’t have back to back titles. And by the way, Wade has been on the media chopping block for the past couple years anyway. I wish I had a dollar for every time somebody called Wade washed up, and “too old”, and “declining”.

    Wade has done plenty for the Heat franchise to deserve a pass in a regular season loss, which wouldn’t have been lost anyway if not for an absolutely ridiculously unlikely, well-contested, circus shot 3 pointer by Jeff Green. That game wasn’t lost by Wade alone too – a single missed freethrow, missed layup, or defensive stop could have won that game. Anybody on the team could have allowed them to win, but they played lazy defense and slow offense. Sorry that Wade wasn’t publicly humiliated.

    Your comment about if James made that play… wow. Yes, he probably would be held more accountable publicly; but is that a good thing? The media loves to build up LeBron and then tear him down every chance they get. How is that good reporting? If LeBron even whispers something less than savory, he may as well be classified as Hitler. The double standard regarding LeBron is sickening, frankly.

    Finally, Spo and his coaching staff supposedly worked the hell out of the entire team their next practice, so if it was punishment you wanted, then they got it.

  3. Jesse Greenman says

    So true. If this were Lebron’s mistakes, we would never hear the end of it. That OKC series could have gone drastically different because of Wade’s stupidity. He has such a low basketball IQ and is very turnover prone. Without his athleticism, and it is waning fast, he is an average player at best.

    • Dixon says

      Agreed.Low basketball IQ, inconsistent free throw, mid range, three pointers as a guard is unacceptable. Loose handles and needs a biased ref to get his points going. The dude scores by making the easiest shots that any of us can make. He is so ovverated and adored by the media, its insane. People don’t see it because they always referred Wade from the past. The guy is only a part time basketball playing nowadays who cares more about building his brand and wealth than just simply playing basketball. Its obvious he’s turned into a DIVA/hollywood since dating Gabby. He needs to retire.

  4. Daniel says

    Their were a couple of questionable coaching decisions and plays in that game. Riley always says the disease of me. You also forgot to mention the possession before with Wade and Bosh to not include LeBron. Why did Bosh shoot with 7 seconds on the shot clock. It was like DWade had a different agenda. I also question not bringing Beasley back in the second half especially against Kelly O. DWade got a pass all last year. When he played bad he was hurt when he played good he gutsy.

  5. jerry25 says

    I was watching live and it Was one of the most impossible finishes to a game ever.
    Not mentioned was that time had actually run out, and the referees had to check the replay to add what turned out to be 0.6 secs back on the clock. There could not have been any normal person in the arena or watching on TV who thought that Boston could tie game, not to mention win in regulation. Apparently DWade didn’t think so either, by his behavior.

    First, if you watch the 1st free throw, DWade must have been thinking of what to do on the 2nd free throw, or what he was going to be doing later than night, because he missed badly to the right. I thought maybe he was practicing how to miss the 2nd free throw.
    Instead, however, as soon as the ref handed him the ball for the 2nd free throw, DWade immediately threw a fast line drive at the center of the backboard, apparently trying to surprise Boston before they could get set. The ball sailed about a foot over the rim. It was as though DWade wasn’t aware that the ball had to hit the rim (of course he will deny that now). Had he just taken a normal free throw, but threw it a little long, it likely would have used up a minimum of 0.3 secs. The would have made it impossible for Boston to take a normal shot on the inbound pass.

  6. Patti says

    It’s not that. Players are human. This would be like getting on Lebron for a turnover. It happens. We in Miami know and love our players. They are smart, and self-correcting. You are the one pushing back against the situation, because you have how much coaching experience? Spo will handle it. The players will handle it. This is a self-correcting locker room. Enjoy the ride.

    • says

      As a matter of fact, I have been coaching for six years. Obviously not on that level. It’s not like getting on LeBron for a turnover. It’s not anywhere close. Wade made a team decision on his own that is normally reserved for the coaching staff only. He got selfish and didn’t think and therefore should take his lumps. Thanks for reading.

  7. Mopo says

    I think this has more to do with Miami being just tired of meaningless early-season controversy after the past 3 seasons. The fans and the media. If this happens in May or June of 2014, it’s a story.

    And in case you haven’t noticed, Miami media already has it’s hands full with a football story.

    • says

      Mopo, thanks for reading. I agree with you about the timing; the fact that it happened Saturday night also helped gloss it over. But it was a dumb decision made without the coaching staff, and everyone is kind of like, Oh well. No, not oh well. He cost them a game. Do we not care about wins and losses anymore? CB


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