Now in his 15th season, Cleveland Cavaliers guard Dwyane Wade is well on his way to the Hall of Fame. The 12-time All-Star and three-time NBA champion holds career averages of 23.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game and will likely go down as one of the best shooting guards to ever step on a basketball court.
At 35 years old, there’s no denying that Wade is regressing, likely due to the wear-and-tear that his body has accumulated over the years.
Last season with the Chicago Bulls, he put up 18.3 points (the lowest since his rookie year) in 29.9 minutes (the lowest of his entire career prior to this campaign) per game. When he was bought out of the last year of his deal with Chicago this offseason, he chose the Cavaliers in order to pursue an NBA title alongside close friend LeBron James.
However, through his first three games with the team, he has failed to make a positive impact and has looked somewhat lost on the offensive end of the floor.
In the season opener against the Boston Celtics, he played 29 minutes and put up eight points on 3-of-10 shooting along with two boards and three assists. In the second game of the year against the Milwaukee Bucks, he played 26 minutes and scored just four points on 2-of-7 shooting along with two rebounds and three assists. Then, in a surprising loss to the Orlando Magic in Cleveland’s third contest, he played just 16 minutes and scored five points on 2-of-8 shooting along with two rebounds and four assists.
Overall, he has averaged 5.7 points on 28.0 percent shooting with 2.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists over 23.7 minutes.
That is simply not up to his standards.
So, the man who has started 907 of 918 regular-season contests and all 172 playoff games in his illustrious career marched into head coach Tyronn Lue’s office over the weekend and came up with an idea: to play with the second unit moving forward.
"I just decided, earlier than later, just to get to the unit where I'd be more comfortable in and can probably be better with this team in that lineup," Wade told reporters after practice on Monday, per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. "Why wait? Three games in, why wait? Wanted to get in there with those guys.”
Lue accepted Wade’s request and will start JR Smith in his place.
"We talked about it before we got here [that] it'd be a better fit with him coming off the bench," Lue said. "I know he'd been a starter his whole career, so we wanted to try to start him and give him that nod. He came to me and said, 'You know what, Coach? What you said was right. I'd be able to be featured more in the second unit and be able to handle the ball more, so let's make that move and make that adjustment.’ ... That's what professionals do. No ego. He saw it was best for the team for him to come off the bench. It was his call, and here we are.”
Lue also made it clear that this will be a permanent move.
"I just wanted to give him a chance because he'd been a starter his whole career," Lue admitted. "To watch him with that first unit, we see how it worked out, and he came to me and just said, 'What you said was right. It's a better fit for me in the second unit.' For a future Hall of Famer and a guy that's won three NBA championships to come to the coach and see what's best for the team, that's big time."
Putting his ego aside, Wade made it obvious that he will do whatever the team needs him to do, even if it means playing fewer minutes.
"I came here for one reason," Wade noted. "I didn't come here to shoot 20 shots or average 20 points. I came here to be a part of winning and to bring what I can to this team, and I want to do that. I feel that my best opportunity to do that is in that unit, so it just came down to that.”
Against lesser talent, Wade will likely become the go-to option when guys like LeBron James and Kevin Love are resting, thus perhaps making the most of his dynamic scoring abilities. We will see how he adapts to his new role when the Cavs host the rebuilding Bulls on Tuesday night.
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