Dwyane Wade probably can’t recall a time when he wished he were more wrong.
“Yeah, I went to sleep knowing,” Wade told the Florida Sun-Sentinel on Friday of the night he and LeBron James spent together flying from Las Vegas to Miami just hours prior to the four-time league MVP announcing he was returning to the land of where it all began. “He called me the next day. But I knew then. Obviously, he still had to say the final yay or nay, but I knew. I could tell.”
But, despite how it all may have looked sometimes, particularly during the Heat’s 4-1 dismantling by the Spurs in the NBA Finals, LeBron James alone did not the Miami Heat make. And Wade’s attitude in the wake of James’ decision to return to Cleveland lets you know just how much fight the one-time, back-to-back NBA champs may yet have in them.
“It was a different summer for us,” Wade admitted. “It’s no secret, obviously, it’s been a change in how we looked the last four years by losing LeBron. I think our ownership has done a great job so far of trying to not replace but recover from that. The only thing we do as a franchise and as players is we move forward.”
And the man who has spent all 11 of his NBA seasons in a Miami Heat uniform appears more than willing to shoulder a lot of that responsibility.
“I’ll just say I’m lighter right now than I was when I came to training camp last year,” Wade said of widespread reports he has adopted a weight loss regimen shared with him by veteran sharpshooter Ray Allen. “One thing about sports is your teammates become influential. The influence they have on you is second to none.”
The locker room can also be the breeding-ground for some of life’s closest relationships, which is at least partly why Wade seems to find it so hard to cast aspersions on James doing what he believes was simply in his heart.
“As his friend, I’m just supportive,” Wade insisted. “As crazy as that might sound, I’m supportive of my friends doing what makes them happy. Obviously, same thing with him in this situation. You’ve gotta do what makes you happy — selfishly do what makes you happy. The decision to go back home was that.”
Beyond making all the adjustments for that, Wade is also hoping his raised conditioning will aid him in staying on the court more this season and not anything like a repeat of him having to miss the career-high 28 games he did last season. In addition to resigning Chris Bosh and Mario Chalmers, Miami is also hoping the acquisitions of Luol Deng, Josh McRoberts, and Danny Granger will provide the team with greater depth and flexibility.
“One thing I will tell them is I can’t go back five years,” Wade said in terms of what he is truly expecting from himself. “I ain’t trying to go back five years. If we all could, we would, but that’s not likely. I really don’t know how it’s going to be. I’m used to something from the last four years, so until we get into training camp and the preseason games, you really don’t know how it’s going to be yet.”