By Ben Golliver
In an unusual move by NBA standards, the Heat released a statement Friday defending guard Dwyane Wade after the All-Star guard was hit with a one-game suspension by the NBA for a low blow to Bobcats guard Ramon Sessions.
The Heat said in the formal statement that the organization "[does] not agree" with the NBA's ruling.
While we accept the decision of the NBA regarding Dwyane Wade, we do not agree with it. In his 10 years in the league, Dwyane has never been suspended, and has been an exemplary player and positive influence to his teammates and fans and we have been honored to have him as part of the Miami HEAT family. Unfortunately, he is the type of player, along with other players on our roster, that defenses take privileges with. We stand with Dwyane and support him in this situation and have made our feelings known to the league office.
While Sessions said he believed Wade's foul was intentional, Wade tweeted that he did not purposefully kick Sessions in the groin.
“I’m far from being a dirty player and my intent was never to kick Ramon Sessions,” Wade wrote. “I just reacted to the contact that I got from him. More than anything, I think of my boys watching me before retaliating toward any player. I’m moving forward and ready to get back on the court in Milwaukee.”
Wade will serve his suspension on Friday night against the Pistons in Detroit after he responded to a foul from Sessions by, as the NBA league office termed it, "flailing his leg and making contact with the groin" of Sessions during a Wednesday night game in Charlotte. The one-game suspension without pay will cost Wade roughly $156,000 of his $17.2 million salary.
Following a vast majority of suspensions, fines and other disciplinary actions, NBA teams usually do not have an official comment. Players and coaches might dispute the league's rulings but rarely will an organization go to these lengths, at least publicly, to dispute the league's conclusions.
Why issue this statement? The Heat appear to have two goals here. First, to provide cover for their star player who received criticism over his alleged "dirty" plays this week, talk that has gained steam following previous incidents involving Celtics guard Rajon Rondo and Lakers guard Kobe Bryant. A little extra public relations damage control for a franchise player who is known for doing all the rights things off the court can't hurt. The Heat could stand up for Wade as a player and person in all sorts of ways that don't require a formal statement, which leads us to the second, and more fascinating, goal: to shift the discussion from Wade's reaction to the fouls he endures as a star player.
There's no disputing that Wade is the subject of a lot of fouls, but that's not exactly breaking news. Throughout his career, Wade has been among the NBA's leaders in free throws attempted. From 2004-05 until 2010-11, Wade never averaged fewer than 8.6 free throw attempts per game, peaking out at back-to-back seasons with more than 10 free throw attempts per game in 2005-06 and 2006-07. LeBron James' arrival ushered in a new era for Wade as a No. 2 option and his free throw attempts took a hit. Still, at 5.9 free throw attempts per game this season, the fewest since his rookie season, Wade ranks No. 11 overall in the league.
The Heat's implied point seems to be that Wade and other superstars subject to repeated fouls -- and hard fouls -- need more protection from the league office. That's a fine stance to take but it is totally incongruous with the circumstances that led to Wade's suspension. Sessions' initial foul of Wade, the one that prompted the groin kick, was not particularly vicious or dangerous in any way. It occurred while Wade was on the ground and near halfcourt, not in the air or while executing a move that could leave him exposed to some bodily harm. What's more, Wade clearly saw the foul coming, as he was heading in Sessions' direction when the foul occurred. Sessions didn't "take privileges" with Wade; he merely broke up an open court opportunity in a direct but completely non-threatening manner.
Here, the NBA's punishment fit the crime. Whether intentional or not, Wade's kick was totally unnecessary and not a natural reaction to the foul he received. Whether or not he is the subject of other hard fouls that are going unpenalized isn't relevant to this suspension. You can't totally blame the Heat for taking advantage of a high-profile incident to make a separate point about officiating that they clearly feel strongly about, but the organization comes off a bit indignant at a time when perhaps a more apologetic tone, considering Sessions' pain, was in order. Video via YouTube user NBACalifornia