The Miami Heat are preparing for their Tuesday night matchup against the defending Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers. While head coach Erik Spoelstra is surely looking for the best way to beat the Cavs, he’s also preparing himself for seeing former Heat All-Star Dwyane Wade in a Cavaliers jersey for the first time this season.
“This is like the twilight zone,” Wade’s former coach said.
While Spoelstra seems to have gotten over seeing Wade in a Bulls jersey last season, Wade joining the Cavaliers is something the coach hasn’t quite come to terms with:
“Every time he’s in a new uniform you’re like, ‘OK.’ But not that team. It will never seem right. For me, I hate it.”
This is Wade’s second year away from Miami, where he played the first 13 seasons of his NBA career. Though Spoelstra may not like seeing the three-time champion play elsewhere, he did admit that he’s happy that the guard has found a good situation in Cleveland.
“I’m happy for Dwyane, I’m happy for his family,” Spoelstra said. “I think he’s in a good spot. I think the role that he’s in is going to be one of the most impactful roles in the league.”
Spoelstra finished by saying the lessons he learned from Wade will impact him for years to come.
“I’ll be telling stories about Dwyane 20 years from now to young players on what it really means to do whatever’s necessary to win,” Spoelstra said. “And Dwyane has proven that time and time again.
“It’s such a great lesson for young players in this league that winning is the most important thing and that’s what Dwyane embodies.”
So far this season, Wade has shown signs of slowing down, averaging only 10.2 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game, his former coach is confident, however, that he will find a way to have a huge impact as the season progresses.
“Early on if it’s a new role and he’s a little bit out of his comfort zone he’ll do whatever’s necessary to adapt and become a star in that role,” he said. “And that’s what you’re seeing.”
Even Wade’s longtime Miami teammate Udonis Haslem reflected on the upcoming game, and spoke about a joke he made earlier in the season where he said he planned on saving a flagrant foul for a future matchup against Wade.
“People took that seriously,” Haslem said. “I got people threatening me on Instagram. … ‘Hit Dwyane? Hit LeBron [James]? We’re coming for ya. Come on, bring it.’
“It’s all fun. If I get a chance to come in I’m going to compete, do my job. I’m not going to change how I play or the way I approach the game because of who I’m playing against.”
Haslem and Spoelstra both have years of memories of taking the court with Wade. While it may be hard for them to get over the initial shock of seeing Wade in the lineup against the Heat on Tuesday, many of Miami’s players will consider him just another opponent who is trying to get in the way of the Heat extending their current three-game winning streak.