MIAMI - Dwyane Wade calls himself a "sidekick," gladly accepting the
role Kobe Bryant never wanted in Los Angeles. And not only does
second-year Heat point guard Wade see himself as a complementary part to
the inside dominance of new teammate Shaquille O'Neal, he feels honored
just to be mentioned in the same sentence as O'Neal.
will let others recognize his play and ranking as sixth in the NBA in
scoring (25.2 points per game) and sixth in assists (7.6 per game)
entering last night.
coach and fellow Marquette alum Doc Rivers called Wade the best player
to come out of their alma mater. (Wade, who has bonded with Rivers,
disagreed.) But that was faint praise compared to what came next.
"Shaq is a [load], but Wade's the guy," said Rivers.
Wade wants to acknowledge it or not, his penetrating drives in
combination with O'Neal down low can make Miami ridiculously difficult
to guard. Thanks to O'Neal and Wade, the Heat boast one of the more
productive and efficient offenses in the league.
got to understand in this game that everybody on a team has a role,
whether that role is being a star or being a practice player," said
Wade. "I understand my role. I'm happy in my role.
"As a young guard in the NBA, I'm happy that my name comes up when they talk about Shaquille O'Neal.
came in and really said I was going to work and work and see how far it
goes. That's what I continue to do. I don't set individual goals. I'm
[self-critical of] my team game. I'll just see how far my ability and my
mind take me."
Wade had 25 points and O'Neal 21 in the Heat's 106-104 victory over the Celtics.
coach Stan Van Gundy was an assistant when Ricky Davis spent an
injury-riddled stint with the Heat. Davis (16 points last night) played
just seven games for Miami, but as might have been expected, he left an
liked Ricky," said Van Gundy. "I liked him when he was here. He was a
guy who had a real joy in playing the game, a great enthusiasm. He was
usually the first guy up there [at practice] every day.
loved to play and make it a competition and get out of drill work and
start playing. He was always a real talented guy, but like a lot of
these guys, he came to the league real, real young. Then I think he got
the rap of being immature. OK, so most 19-year-old guys are immature.
It's taken him some time.
you've seen with Ricky every year is more solid play, more fundamental
play, learning to really use his athletic ability, being more concerned
with production than all the flair and how he looks. I see a better
version of him all the time. I know that he's a very, very difficult guy
"He's gotten a
little bit better every year he's been in the league, like I think a lot
of guys do. He's started to figure it out. I certainly think the things
they're doing in Boston with Doc are things that really help him and
accentuate his game. He's getting a lot of opportunities to drive the
ball, the floor has opened up.
"All those things are very good for Ricky."
Payton is averaging 33.2 minutes per game. He played 31 minutes last
night, scoring 15 points and grabbing six rebounds. It doesn't rank him
near the top of the league, but the number of minutes is high enough to
make Rivers concerned. The coach does not want to tire out the
36-year-old point guard early in the season. "The better Delonte [West]
plays, the better for Gary," said Rivers. "It's too early in the season
to be logging the minutes [Payton's] been logging. We need Marcus and
Delonte to play to give Gary a rest." . . . So what's it like to be 19
years old, barely out of high school, and guarding O'Neal? Just ask
rookie Al Jefferson, who drew the task for some time last night. At one
point, Jefferson had no choice but to wrap O'Neal in a bear hug. "It was
a great experience," said Jefferson. "It was really unbelievable. It
hit me kind of fast. I just had to settle down and play, know I'm a
professional now, too." . . . Despite recent changes in the rotation
with Jiri Welsch taking a starting job, Davis joining the second unit,
and West earning the backup point guard spot, Rivers reaffirmed that he
likes the current roster. "I'm just trying to get used to who starts and
who finishes the game," said Rivers. "It's a learning process for me
and them. The second unit will bear out. It's a long season in that
regard. Delonte and Marcus [Banks] are both young. There will be nights
when one guy plays poorly and you play the other guy. I don't think
either guy is the guy yet." . . . Heat fans may have watched the last
home broadcast featuring Mike Fratello, the front-runner to replace
Hubie Brown in Memphis.
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