After a while, Dwyane Wade didn't find it all that funny.
“Without Wade, the team was doing great,” Wade deadpanned.
That was January 27, 2012, after Wade had returned from two weeks off—resting a sprained ankle—to efficiently, explosively score 28 points against the New York Knicks. He had watched the Miami Heat win five of those six contests. And while at home?
“I had nothing else to do but watch TV,” Wade said. “It was on every other second.”
What was on was the "Without Wade" graphic, capturing the Heat's record without him. By the end of the season, that record would be 14-3, and that would include two losses at the end of the season that LeBron James missed also, as both rested for the playoffs. Miami was 13-1 in games that James played and Wade did not.
“This team could win with or without me,” Wade said at the time. “But to say they’re better without me, I doubt it.”
There was no doubt that the talk would start again if Wade missed more time. On the Heat's recent six-game road trip, he missed one game with a virus and two with a sprained foot, which could keep him out again Wednesday against surprising Milwaukee.
The Heat won all three....pushing the "Without Wade" record to 17-3.
In the three games he did play, he averaged just 11 points on 30 percent from the field, and Monday told reporters that he regretted playing in Wednesday's game against the Clippers, when he aggravated the foot injury.
"I didn't do myself any justice," Wade said.
Is it an injustice to Wade to say the Heat are as good, or better, without him?
(All quotes in this piece were gathered in the course of the author's coverage of the team. All stats are accurate as of Monday afternoon.)