All season, the Miami Heat have counted on D-Wade to come through in the waning seconds of a game.
But not just with the rock in his hand. Oftentimes, it’s on defense.
Wade has been as effective in the clutch on D as he has breaking down defenders on his way to a game-winning shot on the offensive end.
It’s as if the 6-year pro is channeling the best of two of his former Heat teammates on the team’s lone championship run: Alonzo Mourning and Gary Payton.
Wade’s dedication to D is probably what separates him from the other legitimate MVP candidates in the NBA.
“It’s all about defense,” said Wade in a recent interview.
Wade won’t win Defensive Player of the Year. That honor should go to the other super hero in the state, Superman, AKA Dwight Howard. But Wade’s MVP case starts on D.
Lebron James scores, rebounds and no-look passes his way to headlines, but he is an average on-the-ball defender at best. Don’t let the ESPN clips of highlight blocks fool you. Those moments are few and far between.
Kobe can be a stopper, but this year he has resigned himself to being a facilitator on offense and a scorer for the Lakers when necessary. Besides, the Lakers blow so many teams out, the Black Mamba rarely plays in the fourth quarter, when MVP signature moments are often made on defense.
Enter Dwyane “I will shut you down” Wade.
Just ask Detroit’s Rodney Stuckey, Chicago’s John Salmons, the Nets’ Vince Carter and Brooke Lopez, or any of the other would-be game-winning heroes thwarted by the Heat’s defensive superhero.
Wade even threw a block party for King James on his B-day visit to South Beach this year.
D-Wade seems to especially get a kick out of punking big men at the rim.
Wade rejected the 7-foot Lopez twice during one sequence in a January nail-biter, including a jaw-dropping blocked dunk attempt by the rookie with seconds left in the game. (Don’t bring that weak stuff in here, young fella.) Getting your shot blocked by a guy 6 or 7 inches shorter than you has to make you feel small.
Stats usually are misleading and don’t tell the full story of a player’s impact, particularly on the defensive end.
Allen Iverson has led the league several times in steals, but the Answer shows up on defense as frequently as he shows up for practice. (We’re talkin’ ‘bout practice!)
Still, Wade is the only guard in the top 20 in blocks and is second in the league in steals. And many of the steals have come on straight up rips, not the gambles in passing lanes Flash often tried years ago.
So while the NBA universe focuses on D-Wade dropping 30 points a game and posterizing players on highlight dunks, Wade keeps his eyes on being the Heat’s last line of defense.