DWYANE WADE was in his first season with the Heat, auditioning as a point guard, and Baron Davis was in his fifth with the Hornets, ensconced as one. They met during a stoppage in play, an awkward time for an introduction, but a surprisingly common one. "There was a possession where I came down and set up a pick-and-roll," Wade recalls. "I took the ball down pretty far, and at the next break Baron pulled me aside. He told me, 'You know, you should think about setting that up higher on the court where you have more room to operate, more angles, and you can take advantage of your speed. When you get low like that, you can only go one way, and the defense can bottle you up.'" Wade wondered if he was the victim of a rookie prank. But the punch line never came. "The whole conversation blew my mind," Wade says. "Here we are, in the middle of competing against each other, and this guy is trying to help me."
This is an article from the Oct. 26, 2015 issue
Wade thinks of that exchange often, because it inspired him to master the high pick-and-roll, a set that's become lifeblood for playmakers everywhere. But he also thinks about it for another reason. "One thing you learn early on in this league is that people share," Wade says. "They reach out, and over time you reach out as well. We all become teachers because, like it or not, the game will go on way beyond us." Modern stars are often lampooned for their incessant hobnobbing, but Wade describes similar brushes with Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and Jason Kidd, not exactly new-age softies. "Part of the job," Wade says, "is passing down what you know."
IT IS a Friday afternoon in mid-October, and Wade is crouched on the right block, forearm pressed into Justise Winslow's kidneys. Heat practice is over, except for Winslow, a 19-year-old rookie backing down a legend. The brawny southpaw takes two dribbles toward the middle and rises for a lefty jump hook. Wade asks him to do it again. Two dribbles, jump hook. Wade wants to see it again. Two dribbles, jump hook. And again. Two dribbles, jump hook. Wade believes this can be Winslow's go-to move, the foundation for his entire post arsenal, but he barely looks at the shot. He is preoccupied with the shoulders. "When I started going into the post, I would try to bang and bang, leading with my shoulder," Wade says. "That's a foul. I had to learn to use my hips. That's what we're talking about now, ways to use your strength without your shoulders. Once he gets that, I'll give him something else."
Twelve years into his career Wade can relate to Baron Davis. He and Winslow are teammates, but in a larger sense they are competitors, or they will be. Wade is just 33, and he averaged 21.5 points last season, but injuries kept him out of 20 games, and the Heat gave him a one-year contract extension last summer. If all goes as planned, the 6'7" Winslow will eventually succeed him. So why would Wade help hasten the process? "His time is going to come," Wade laughs, "and you can't stop it. You can try to keep it off for as long as you're out there, but when it's time, it's time, and at the end of the day I want the best for this organization. I want to watch him for years to come and think of all the things we did this season. He doesn't have to be the player I am, but if we have any similarities, let's make him great at those."
Heat coaches marvel at how much Wade and Winslow have in common: physical wings with the strength to post up guards and the speed to drive past forwards. After leading Duke to the national title, Winslow fell to 10th in the draft because of concerns about his shot, reminiscent of the doubts that accompanied Wade from Marquette when the Heat chose him fifth in 2003. He smoothed out his midrange stroke and three years later captured the first of his three titles. "What if people had brushed me to the side early on?" Wade says. "But they stayed confident in me." When Winslow arrived in Miami, Wade promptly invited him to his house for lunch.
Wade, who is raising four kids and wrote a book about fatherhood, has many philosophies on nurturing young men. Some translate from living room to locker room. Others don't. "I think it helps to understand that kids today are different and you can't talk to them the way I was talked to," Wade says. "You have to be able to push guys without them feeling like you're pushing guys. I try to tell them, 'This isn't for me. This is for you. I'm not going to force it. But I'm here for you when you're ready to come to me.'" Few blue-chippers have taken him up on it. The last time the Heat picked in the lottery, they chose Michael Beasley, a flaky power forward, in 2008. Beasley needed guidance, but he didn't play Wade's position, and after two disappointing seasons he was gone.
"Certain times you worry about how your body is feeling, how your game is doing, and then you've got these younger guys who are not as mature," Wade says. "But this is a team, and no matter if you're 37 like Birdman [Chris Andersen] or 19 like Justise, we need everybody." Maybe Winslow will someday take Wade's job. Or maybe he'll help him win his fourth ring. Or maybe he'll do both, a deal Wade would gladly strike. For now, Winslow will come off the bench with a contender, benefiting from time and tutelage Wade never enjoyed.
As Wade conducted his jump hook tutorial on a practice court at AmericanAirlines Arena, associate head coach David Fizdale fed bounce passes to Winslow and listened. "Dwyane's not just showing him how to beast," Fizdale says. "He's making him understand why you do what you do. He's asking, 'Why are you posting up? Probably because you're bigger than the guy guarding you. So what will that guy do in response? Probably try to strip you. And what do you do if they switch a bigger guy onto you? Probably face up and use your speed.'"
Winslow, thoughtful and serious, nodded silently. "I'm not trying to be a pest and bother him," he says. But after they finished, Winslow asked the video staff for cut-ups of his post moves spliced with Wade's. He is partial to footage from Game 4 of the '06 Finals. "That will make it real," he says. "I'm not necessarily trying to be the No. 1 guy or the top scorer. I'm trying to grow into that role, and 10 years from now I'll have a rookie and help somebody else learn, and it all keeps going."
THROWBACK: D-WADE THE ROOKIE
Boosted his stock in a big way by leading Marquette to the 2003 Final Four, thanks to a triple double against top-seeded Kentucky in the regional finals. Declared for the draft after that season as a 21-year-old junior and went fifth.
Played alongside 32-year-old Eddie Jones (sound familiar?) on a Heat team light on star power. Jones and Lamar Odom finished one-two in scoring.
Scored 16.2 points per game in an injury-plagued regular season (sound familiar?), then led the Heat in scoring with 18.0 during their run to the Eastern Conference semis.