By Eduardo Maisonet, III / @edthesportsfan
I almost fell asleep during the game.
Traveling from Cincinnati to San Francisco is a long haul, and dealing with the three-hour time zone change left your favorite writer a tad winded when I was finally able to relax in my hotel room. (Don’t feel bad for me, I’m out here trying to pay the bills. We’re good.) All I wanted to do is order room service, get out of my suit, and watch game one of the NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
If you’ve been paying attention to my writing during the NBA playoffs, you know that my heart strings tug for the Oklahoma City Thunder. While i will always strive to be as objective and neutral as Switzerland, don’t ever think that when I put the proverbial pen down I’m not picking my Thunder fan cap back on. But I digress.
I watched Miami surge out to a big lead on OKC, with LeBron looking like he was in “Game 6, Eastern Conference Finals mode” all over again. I was never worried for the Thunder. A 13-point lead in the second quarter was whittled down to 7 at the half. Before we knew it, Miami’s lead was gone and the Thunder took a lead that they’d never relinquish. Kevin Durant was efficient, Russell Westbrook was sharing with care and Scott Brooks was masterfully using his rotation and making adjustments on the fly to stifle Miami.
(Wait….what? Yes, that’s one of the interesting sidebars of the playoffs. While many have questioned Brooks coaching IQ in recent times, most notably me, he’s grown up with the young boys on his team. Brooks is a free-agent, and although its most likely that OKC will pay the man handsomely, you never know if someone will back up the truck full of cash in front of his door.)
Meanwhile, as my eyes began to get heavy after pounding the hotel’s finest burger they had to offer, strangely I wondered the whereabouts of the only superstar on the floor that had actually won a championship.
Where in hades is Dwyane Wade?
Yes, Dwyane Wade. The man that I affectionately call the “Teflon Don” of the NBA. The man escapes slander and ridicule like Harry Houdini with padlocks and chains. Its the other interesting sidebar that could make or break Miami’s title chances. While LeBron is obviously the best player on the floor, and many will point at Chris Bosh being the most important player on the floor, the person who still struggles to find his mesh point with this team is Wade. Some could argue that a 19 point, 8 rebound effort doesn’t deserve such scrutiny, but for a man who’s been in the wars of the NBA Finals twice before, the urgency at which Wade plays is a questionable one at times.
What is all the more intriguing is what we learned during the pre-game interview with Wade, where he spoke about “relinquishing the reins” to LeBron. While we can argue and debate on a different day if LeBron’s ready for that role (which he is, he’s done it plenty of times in his Cleveland days) the bigger question could be, what type of impact does that have on Wade’s game?
Well, Wade did become a passer on Tuesday, 8 assists and a few more hockey assists to setup easy buckets for his team was crucial, but OKC hung 105 points on a Miami squad who’s known for their strong defense. Wade’s got the task of not only defending on Westbrook and James Harden, (Something that a superstar must do right? Defend the best players on the other side of the ball? Durant guarded LeBron for the majority of the night.) but also score in bunches when LeBron isn’t.
Wade’s done this on a variety of occasions during the playoffs, but if his disappearing act continues, we’re going to find that man’s face on a milk carton.