Time is a far more personal concept than we care to admit. A sense of control is of chief importance to us, and the ticking of clocks and turning of calendars is the aspect of life in which we lack it most. And that’s scary, not just because time means age means inevitable change, but because that amalgam forces us to step outside specific zones from which we’ve found comfort for so long.
Years pass and, suddenly, everything’s different – home isn’t home and friends aren’t friends, and as you begrudgingly accept those major shifts in your life it’s necessary to assess the most fundamental means behind them. Are you still you? And the answer to that seemingly simple question is the most important factor of not only your newly realized future, but your newly assumed present, too.
Does Dwyane Wade understand that reality? Even on a game-by-game basis, it’s tough to tell. But that’s the problem – that any deviation exists at all.
Once we experience that initial about-face, when we finally swallow the certain change that comes with a sun that always sets, we must force ourselves to remember it every day. How else to make progress? An eye on the past can be well-served as a magnifier to best observe current and coming experience, but it must be utilized with careful prejudice.
Too often aging players forget that, and play mostly as a version in line with their younger, better selves. Wade’s done an admirable and impressive thing by ceding the reigns in Miami to LeBron James while remaining a destructive two-way force. Though he’s a shell of the historically dominant player that posted a 30.5 PER in 2009, he still might be basketball’s best shooting guard…
But Wade isn’t right now. He’s shown in the past how quickly he can flip the proverbial switch given effective treatment to his balky knees. The Pacers, for instance, remember all too well Wade’s transformative play in games 4, 5 and 6 of last year’s Eastern Conference Semifinals. That final performance against Indiana – a 41 point (17-25 FGs), 10 rebound masterpiece – was Wade like we haven’t seen him since, ball-controlling, slicing and dicing like it was 2006.
But even May 2012 was a different time, when the Heat were a different team and Wade was a different player. He hasn’t scored as many points in a game since because Miami hasn’t asked him to and he may not be capable. That’s no knock, either, just the logical progression of a still-great player now playing on the b-side of a fantastic career.
The Heat are good enough to beat Indiana no matter which Wade shows up. He can play well or poorly, be healthy or otherwise; it might not change the trajectory of this series or even the next one.
But what certainly will is whether or not Wade plays within this latest version of himself. Time, years, games and seasons have left him without some of the ability that at one point made him perhaps basketball’s best player. Wade can’t control that, but what he can is his effectiveness in the the diminished role and responsibilities now asked of him, and how he manifests it in relation to his teammates and opponents.
It’s hard, it’s sad and it’s easiest to ignore, but time necessitates change in all of us. For basketball players, it’s a series of physical deteriorations. For people in general, it’s subtle maturation that renders parts of the past mostly obsolete. But how all of us choose to confront those evolutions is what will shape us going forward.
For the Heat to be their best, Wade needs to not only know it, but apply it, too.