There was a small dust-up in Miami last week when Heat president
"I manage the team and there isn't anybody that loves Dwyane more than me and there isn't anybody that will be more honest with him than me either ... and I think he respects that," Riley said.
As long as Riley is preaching the virtues of accountability and honesty, a little context is in order. After Wade propelled Miami to a 43-39 record and No. 5 playoff seed last year via the best non-MVP season in recent memory, Riley sat on his hands in the offseason, preferring to stow salary-cap space in the hopes of signing a 2010 free agent, such as
In other words, the Heat have hung Wade out to dry this season, relying on an extension of his extraordinary skills and effort to keep the team competitive and reap a little lucre for the franchise with some first-round playoff games.
And how has Wade responded? Through the first 25 games, the Heat are 13-12 and holding down the fifth playoff seed -- almost exactly the same arc as last year's winning percentage and postseason placement. As for Wade's personal impact, according to 82games.com,
Meanwhile, despite questions about his conditioning, Wade is playing 79 percent of the team's total minutes, up from 76 percent last season. He's bearing that load despite a recent spate of injuries that, over the past 10 days, has included a sprained wrist, a cut eye, a sore knee, an aggravation of the wrist injury and a sore back. He's soldiering on, even though he could -- in a manner consistent with Riley's stockpiling of salary-cap space -- declare free agency after the season.
Riley is right that Wade's numbers are down, especially his shooting accuracy, which has plummeted to a career-low 43.2 percent largely because Wade isn't finishing at the rim as well as he did last season. But the drop-off could be partly due to his various nagging injuries. Or it could be, as Heat coach
Riley goes out of his way to emphasize that straight talk is the way the Heat personnel conduct themselves, with no delicacies or coddling allowed. "There isn't anyone in this organization -- believe me -- walking around on eggshells because of Dwyane," he said.
Catching this spirit of forthright divulgence, we feel compelled to point out that, in recent years, Riley's own level of desire to perform as head coach of the Heat seems closely correlated to his team's prospects of contending for a championship.
He resigned at the start of the 2003-04 and watched his replacement,
Maybe Wade should also tend to his aches and pains to better position himself for a big payday and the potential of a superstar teammate in Miami next season. Then again, maybe he should consider a move to Chicago or another franchise. Because without the nitpicking over Wade's decline to 26.6 points, 5.0 rebounds and 6.2 assists, Riley and the rest of the Heat brass will have to concern themselves with such burning issues as choosing between