Despite having played 11 NBA seasons and winning three league championships along the way, Dwyane Wade is still doubted.
He was doubted when he was drafted out of Marquette by the Miami Heat in the 2003 NBA Draft as an undersized two-guard who lacked a jump shot. Critics doubted that the shooting guard could be a No. 1 option on a team before he led the Heat to their first NBA title during his third season in the league. People even doubted he and LeBron James could coexist to the point where they could become a capable duo before they won two championships in four years together.
Doubt has played a key role in the development and maturation of Wade’s basketball career.
Just don’t expect it to be a motivator this year for Wade. In the NBA’s annual poll of general managers on NBA.com, the former NBA Finals MVP wasn’t even mentioned in the same breath as the league’s best shooting guards, a first in eight years.
Wade’s response to the general consensus regarding his current value throughout the NBA?
“I don’t care,” the veteran stated in an interview to Dave Hyde of The Sun Sentinel.
Wade followed up that statement with this conclusion:
“I’ve got enough motivation. I know what I’m playing for. I know what I can do. Stuff like that doesn’t bother me. When I was younger, it bothered me. Now it doesn’t. Not this year.”
There is no doubting No. 3’s mark on the game. Not only is he a multiple-time NBA Champion and former Finals MVP, but he has also won a scoring title (2009) while being named to the All-Star Game 10 times throughout his career.
However, it’s hard to completely believe Wade’s statements at face value. Very similar in vain to Kobe Bryant’s recent comments about how “he doesn’t care” that ESPN ranked him No. 40 on a list of the NBA’s best players, both veteran shooting guards face the uphill battle of having to prove themselves all over again.
While Wade and Kobe have said the right things in regards to the media’s doubts of their ability as impact players while in the twilight years of their careers, there is little doubt that both players are more motivated than at any point during their NBA careers to re-establish themselves as elite players, despite over a decade of mileage on their treads.
In the case of D3, here’s why the media’s view of him provides motivation–despite coming off of the most efficient season of his career, he played in just 54 of the Heat’s 82 games due to ailing injuries and Erik Spoelstra’s intentions to sit the vet in order to rest him for the postseason. To make matters worse, the plan did not work as intended as Wade faltered when it mattered most in the 2014 NBA Finals versus the San Antonio Spurs.
It was that pivotal series on the game’s grandest stage that Wade’s reputation took a turn for the worse. Instead of being considered one of the game’s premier players at his position following a season in which he shot .545 from the field, many considered the 11-year veteran to be washed up.
As Hyde stated in the article, the question isn’t whether Dwyane can still have glimpses of the old ‘Flash’ every few games. The question is, can he still not only perform on a nightly basis, but be healthy and play at a high level on a game-to-game basis? Wade stated the following in regards to this challenge:
“I love the challenge right now. I love the challenge I have and we have as a team. I think it was good in my career. I think it’s given me some energy. My motivation is to go out and play the game and still play it at a high level.”
In the Heat’s recent preseason game versus the Houston Rockets on Tuesday night, he scored 26 points on 11-of-17 shooting from the field. It was vintage Wade, as he showed off his classic mid-range game. While it was nice to see the face of the franchise display his scoring prowess, the more eye-popping number was the four attempts he took from three-point range. “When it’s there, I’m going to take it. We’ve got a different freedom up here in the brain,” he said.
It was the third time in six preseason games that he shot at least three attempts from beyond the arc. In an effort to adapt due to the ailing injuries suffered over the last 11 seasons, Wade seems more inclined than ever before to take shots from long-range if the opportunity presents itself.
The motivation doesn’t just revolve around the fact that the franchise face has struggled through severe recurring injuries over the last years, it also lies in the fact LeBron James is no longer a member of the Heat. It’s no coincidence that he just so happens to be the best player in the league.
With all things considered, the 2014-15 season presents D3 with the most challenging season of his career. He can say all of the right things in regards to his value of the media’s perception of him. He can even downplay his faltering performance in the 2014 NBA Finals.
However, the fact remains that he’s 32 years old with more wear-and-tear on his body than your average 11-year NBA veteran. Due to an aggressive style of play, the shooting guard averaged over nine attempts from the free-throw line during a six-year span from 2004 until 2010.
Coming off of a season in which he played just 54 games, and presented with the dubious task of having to lead the Heat in the post-LeBron era after playing a sidekick role over the past three seasons, there is little doubt that the upcoming season won’t be one of motivation for ‘Flash.’