[Thanks to Bullieving in Miami for today's game preview. Both teams are desperate for a win at this juncture. -ed.]
Here it is, my Chicagonese Bulls fans. Here is your last chance to sweet talk and serenade Dwyane Wade into your arms. Here is your last chance to make the hometown superstar feel, well, at home. And you know what, it couldn't have come at a better time.
The Heat are struggling big-time, and D-Wade must feel like a very lonely man on that team. From what I've seen of Heat basketball this season, it seems as though D-Wade is perhaps coasting through this season. Its odd because I know Wade to have a great competitive fire throughout his career (I mean, he has won a championship), but the Heat are very much in the same spot as the Bulls. This is a placeholder season for them as well. Pat Riley and ownership have been pitching 2010 to Wade for about 3 years now. He has refused to re-sign with them unless they officially bring in another star to pair with him. So Wade has obliged... so far. First Round exit last season. This year? The Heat and Bulls are in a virtual tie and occupy the last 2 playoff spots in the East as of now. (don't look now but here come the Bucks... when was the last time those words were uttered? oh wait, they have a real coach) All this leads to Wade seemingly coasting through this season. He's shooting more threes and long jumpers than in years past. I just haven't seen him taking it to the bucket as much. All this leads me to back to the lonely man syndrome. I think he knows his team is going nowhere this year so he figures might as well preserve the body and prevent injury by taking it easy a bit. I know this kind of talk sounds like quitting, and I don't think anyone anywhere can possibly say Wade is a quitter, but I don't blame the man for keeping the future in mind. I'm sure he isn't happy about basically wasting these last 2 or 3 seasons, and prime years I might add.
In the month of January, Wade shot 51%FG. That's just about the highest percentage he has shot in any month since 2006 when they won the championship. Couple that with the fact the Heat lost the most games in January out of any month this season and are currently on a 4-game skid (and still have HOU and ATL after tonight's game) and you can see why he'd be a lonely man on that team. So make him feel real welcome tonight. Show him a sold-out, rowdy UC and how its better than the often-half-empty American Airlines Arena. (Miami fans are so fair-weather. I am not part of that crowd.) Oddly enough, for his career, Wade only shoots a lower FG% versus the Rockets and Lakers, so if you can't beat'em, join'em (the Bulls I mean).
I've always been on the "Sign Wade" bandwagon. For as good as Bosh and Lebron and Boozer and STAT are, none of those guys have a ring, and thats what I've seen in D-Wade since his rookie season: the man just knows how to win. Shaq was mostly irrelevant during the Finals in '06 (14pts/10rebs. not Shaq numbers by any means, even when compared to the conference finals versus Detroit) He's my favorite player in the NBA and I just don't see how you turn away HoF talent. I say get the pieces, figure it out later. He's so good he somehow keeps guys like Jermaine O'Neal and Quentin Richardson and Carlos Arroyo (FIU!!!!) hovering around .500. I really wanted to try to find stats as far as how much Rose and Wade have the ball in their hands to try to dispute the theory that they duplicate each other, but I'm not really skilled when it comes to looking up numbers like that, so maybe some of you metric stat hounds can help with that.
Considering the players on both teams, all year I've contended that I'd take our 1-8 versus Miami's 1-8 easily. So I would expect a win tonight, but we all know our 1-7 just doesn't come close to cutting it (jeez, what missing one rotation player can do to this team...). Really though, I'm looking for the Bulls to bounce back from this 3-game skid and show D-Wade which is the more promising roster. Go on home, Dwyane, go on home. (though Wade County sounds pretty cool)
GAMETIME: 7PM CST TV: WGN, NBATV