HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Dwyane Wade remembers those days when he was crashing to the floor on almost every other possession and he could bounce up like nothing happened, when his body allowed him to do things only the best of the NBA’s best could do.
It seems like a lifetime ago for the Miami Heat’s veteran superstar, whose stellar career has been marked by injury issues in recent years. Wade is still one of the league’s elite players, of course.
But his body hasn’t allowed him to be that player every night. So if anyone understands the plight fellow Chicago native Derrick Rose is living through now — trying to get back to MVP-level after two tumultuous years dealing with severe injuries, it’s Wade.
When Rose talks about taking things easy now because he’s thinking about the future, it produced chaotic reactions around the basketball world, including a parade of former players and pundits eager to indict him for not being true to the game.
But when Wade said it wouldn’t be wise to push it on a sore hamstring before sitting out a recent game against the Atlanta Hawks, no one blinked.
The Heat star talked about Rose, life after LeBron James, reinventing yourself in the second half of your career (like Kobe Bryant) and the veteran perspective he has acquired over the years during a recent interview with NBA.com …
Dwyane Wade: I don’t think it’s something that is on your mind until something serious happens. For me, when I had my shoulder surgery, that’s when I started thinking differently. A serious injury, a surgery shows you that none of this is promised to you. And that’s when it really sets in for you as a player.
NBA.com: A lot has been made of Derrick Rose and his comments recently about how he’s going to approach things. Some people took it as him saying he wasn’t going to go as hard. What did you make of his comments and the fallout?
DWade: When you have serious injuries the way he has, your mindset is going to be a little different. There’s no way around that. It doesn’t mean you don’t love the game and you are not going to give it your all. It just means that you know, if this happened to me once it could happen to me again. And you start thinking about things in that context all the time. It’s inevitable, at least in the way you think about things.
NBA.com: One day you’re 20 or 21 and invincible and the next day you wake up and realize you’re not Superman anymore. How hard does that hit you as an elite-level athlete?
DWade: At some point you have to put all of that in perspective. But I don’t ever think it’s going to be at 19, 20, 21 or when you are in your physical prime without any issues. We shouldn’t expect that. But at some point, you would hope that each individual comes through this game has a moment when they realize things have to be done differently. You don’t ever like to see guys you play with go through the struggles, on or off the court, there has to be a point when you slow down, recognize where you are in your career and make the necessary changes to do things in a way that allow you to be effective for whatever stage of your career you are in. You have to learn through the process of growing and maturing and learning how to handle yourself from being young to being a veteran.
NBA.com: There’s that word, process. Speaking of that, how has this process worked for you guys, trying to reinvent yourselves from the Big 3 with LeBron to the team you are now?
DWade: It has been interesting, this process, and there is that word that has been used and overused around here the past few years. But that’s the best word to describe it, really. It’s been a journey and for us it’s been a good change. But it’s still early. The frustrations haven’t set in yet. I don’t care who you are, when you go through a NBA season there are bound to be some frustrations and some adversity. And you don’t know what you have until you go through those things, deal with them and come out on the other side. It’s early still. Everything is still fresh. It’s good to have wins like we had in Dallas. But then it’s good to come back and have a tough home loss to Indiana. It is a bad loss. But that is the ebb and flow of a season. It’s different, though, especially for myself and Chris [Bosh], taking on a new challenge that we haven’t really had the last four years, and making it work.
NBA.com: One of the biggest differences has to be the glare of the spotlight you had compared to the one you’re dealing with now. Every practice and every shootaround doesn’t seem like a made-for-TV event anymore, does it?
DWade: [Laughing] It’s actually cool for me. Listen, we didn’t run from the spotlight or anything when we had it. We took everything that came with it and owned it. Now that it’s off of us, it’s fine. We understand that it’s been shifted, the spotlight has been shifted and let them [Cleveland] enjoy that right now. Besides, you never know how things might change in this league. One minute you can’t get out of the spotlight and the next it’s gone anyway.
NBA.com: It’s funny you mention how quickly things change. I was telling someone the other day about covering the Heat in the playoffs your rookie year when you played point guard. And they argued me down that you never played point guard …
DWade: I might not have been a “point guard”, per say, but that’s what I played then. It was fun to come into the league and find my way.
NBA.com: Does it seem strange to you know, at 32, being on the other side, so to speak, and looking back at where your career has taken you from experimental point guard back then to where you are now?
DWade: I came in as a point guard and now I’m a post-up player [still laughing] … I mean, I do pick and rolls now, but I came in as a point guard and we run most of our post-ups now for me. So you have to understand that the the game evolves, the world evolves, the world around you evolves.