Dwyane Wade was quick to find the positives after the Miami Heat’s game seven loss in Toronto, pointing to the progress made by the team’s rookies during the playoff run.
In their first NBA season, 20-year-old Justise Winslow and 22-year-old Josh Richardson stepped into bigger roles and held their own under the bright lights of the post-season.
And Wade believes that will serve the pair well for playoff battles in the years ahead.
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LEARNING ON THE JOB
“For those two guys to get some playoff experience – not just any playoff experience, two seven-game series – that experience is going to be great for them as their careers continue on,” he said.
“You look at those guys – 20 and 22 years old – they’ve got so much in front of them, so many opportunities.
"You just smile thinking about the possibilities of what they can do. They don’t even know yet, but this experience in their first year is going to really help them.”
“We don’t think of them as young guys,” added Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra. “I never refer to them as young guys. They’ve been fearless all year long and they’re a major part of why we got to where we were. I’m very proud of this group.”
As the Heat’s season came to a close, Wade refused to use Miami’s bad injury luck – most recently, Chris Bosh’s health issues and Hassan Whiteside’s knee sprain – as an excuse, but he did reflect on what might have been if the team had been at full strength.
“Obviously, the conference finals was the goal,” Wade added. “We fought tooth and nail trying to get to that goal, but we came up one game short.
“We’ve been bugged, snake-bitten a little bit. All you want is a chance. I wish we’d had a 100% chance, a full chance, to see what we could do.
“It’s a critical off-season for the growth of what we’ve been trying to do as an organization since the last trip to the finals. Last year was the first year of rebuilding to get there and this year was another step in the right direction.
“Obviously, the health of Chris Bosh is important for us. We missed him this year.
“For myself and some of the other guys on the team, it’s not always [a case of] ‘there’s another season and another season.’ So you want to take advantage of the opportunity."