Life is always about change; constant growth and evolution in all of its forms.
Dwyane Wade looks to silence the ever-louder critics this season, but his refusal to change could mean the end of basketball life as we know it in Miami. Time has been unkind to Wade, and the injuries that go hand-in-hand with his slashing style of play have limited him in the past. But with the season-long courtship of LeBron James officially in full-effect, will Dwyane's painful drives to the hoop be the biggest factor in driving James away from the Heat?
"Don't try to put that pressure on me," said Wade during last week's team media day, in response to a question about his role in keeping the Big Three era together next season. "Y'all could stop that right now."
Perhaps putting that "pressure" on Wade is unfair. James and Chris Bosh, both potential free agents at the end of this season, are grown men who have accomplished numerous personal and professional goals as a result of joining the Miami Heat. The decision will ultimately be theirs to make.
But Wade has largely been credited for being the orchestrator of the "Big Three" collusion, despite his repeated rejection of the notion. It would be naïve to assume he can't influence his teammates and that his abilities on the court aren't a big part of what made - and will make - Miami such an attractive destination.
He has reaped the rewards of the union. Three more trips to the NBA Finals, two more rings and, moreover, cementing his place in the upper levels of the game's greatest shooting guards.
And he has made some sacrifices.
It seems clearer now that the Heat goes as far as James is willing to carry them; Wade gave up his alpha-male role for the good of the team. Also, numbers reflect lower productivity since the revamped Heat took the court in 2010 even as Wade has been more effective than ever.
But team success has certainly strengthened his individual legacy, as it often does in basketball, so the sacrifices have been beneficial to both him and the Heat.
Wouldn't it stand to reason that Wade would be willing to undergo one more change, one final transformation, that would keep the Big Three and their annual championship quest intact?Following in the Footsteps of Other Greats
Wade's career has often been compared to two other great - if not the greatest - shooting guards in league history: Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. Both Jordan and Bryant modified their respective games to avoid more contact and prolong their careers. While remaining the offensive focus of their respective teams (something Wade is not burdened with as long James wears a Heat uniform), these superstars transitioned from slashing, authoritative dunkers to steady, opportunistic shooters. As their games dipped increasingly below the rim, it became crucial for them to play smarter, not harder.
Wade's success is dependent on him continuing to trend toward being more effective rather than productive. Developing a more consistent mid-range game and adding a dependable three-point shot would help save those balky knees. And, perhaps more importantly, as teams shift their focus on James, Wade must continue to take advantage of defensive breakdowns and play smartly without the ball.
Wade's primary goal this offseason was to improve his overall health but evolving his game might just save the Big Three era.
In order to continue adding to his championship legacy, Dwyane Wade needs to make one more sacrifice.