LeBron James, Dwyane Wade Finding Increasing Comfort Alongside Each Other
MIAMI -- There has only been one role that LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have known since entering the NBA in 2003. If they didn't put the team on their backs and have a spectacular game, chances are they'd lose the game. This season has marked the first time they've played alongside a true equal, and though they've briefly been on the same Team USA and All-Star teams, it's been a challenging experience for both players who needed to come together quickly at the start of the season.
With Tuesday's 117-112 victory over the Indiana Pacers, the Heat are on a seven-game winning streak with four of them ending in a margin of victory of five points or less. In contrast, the Heat's first five losses of the season came by eight points or less. Prior to their current winning streak, Miami had only one victory by five points or less and it came against the lowly Washington Wizards.
Wade knew it would take time to pull out these types of close games and to become familiar with playing full-time alongside James and Chris Bosh as well as several new teammates.
"I think we're more comfortable with each other," he explained. "We're more confident in our late game sets. We've always been confident with our late game defense. Early in the year, it was a new team and it takes teams time to initially come together and get it. It took us a little time and now we're very comfortable in late games and we feel that we should win if the game is close. It's not always going to go that way but you we have that mentality."
With James by his side as always to answer questions after the win over the Pacers, both players spoke of "comfort." Winning of course helps establish that but it's clear that the team is now firing on all cylinders as they get healthy and an effective rotation is being established.
"I'm very comfortable with the system and very comfortable with my teammates," said James. "There was definitely an adjustment period for all of us including myself, just changing locations. Basically it's the first time in my life I've lived somewhere else besides Akron, Ohio. It's been 25 straight years living in Akron so it's the first time I ever had moved to another state, to another city.
"It was definitely challenging for myself. Now I'm comfortable on and off the court. It's resulting in me playing some good basketball and us playing some great basketball together as a team so I feel good."
"And he's getting on his teammates more," Wade quickly added. "He got on me a couple of times today so he's being real comfortable."
Wade's joke further helped illustrate LeBron's point in an indirect manner. While they are friendly and courteous with the media, it's clear that appearing together helps defuse the spotlight and keeps the mood light as they constantly joke between each other and allows them to interject their thoughts while the other is speaking. On the court, Wade is clearly relieved that his old role of savior is no longer needed on a full-time basis, which has given him freedom to operate. Adjusting to playing with a fading Shaquille O'Neal was one thing. Playing next to the reigning MVP, who exploded for 41 points, 13 rebounds and 8 assists against the Pacers, is quite another experience.
"I knew how hard it was to be that guy 82 games out of the year," he said when reflecting on his free agency this past summer. "You don't make the decision that we made this summer without (remembering) that so it's great to have that luxury to see a guy having an amazing game. It's great that you don't have to be awesome every night. Some nights you're not going to have it and you just got to find a way to help your team win it whatever way."
Immediately after the victory, James gave a television interview and claimed he was back to playing "LeBron James basketball." When Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was asked about what that might mean, he quickly smiled.
"I don't necessarily know how to translate that but I'll tell you what, he's playing MVP-like basketball at both ends of the court. I don't even think that's debatable."