Michael Wallace of ESPN's Heat Index reports that LeBron James had choice words for Charles Barkley after the Miami Heat's 101-92 victory over the Atlanta Hawks—words that many would view as ill-advised from a superstar yet display a respect and loyalty to Dwyane Wade:
LeBron to Barkley regarding criticism of Wade: "Shut up."
— Michael Wallace (@WallaceNBA_ESPN) December 11, 2012
How about that?
D-Wade echoed such sentiments with his play:
Entering the Miami Heat's 101-92 victory over the Atlanta Hawks, Wade had been labeled as a star on the decline. One of the strongest critics of Wade's play was longtime friend Charles Barkley.
The issue at hand was ignited by Barkley's comments about Wade's decline in natural talent. According to Ethan J. Skolnick of The Palm Beach Post, Barkley's comments took aim at Wade's status as an aging star.
A situation that Barkley is acquainted with:
The toughest thing for Dwyane Wade [as he gets older] is understanding that he’s starting to lose his [natural] talent and now he has to learn how to play below the basket...That’s the toughest thing when you’re a great player or very athletic, when you can’t jump over a building anymore, you have to learn how to play.
As Wallace reported, James took none-too-kindly to these comments.
By "decline," of course, Barkley and other Wade critics mean to say that Wade has simply dropped to the level of "the rest of the elite" and is no longer a top-three player.
Or isn't he?
Entering the game, Wade had been averaging 19.8 points per game—his lowest mark since his rookie season in 2003. He's also shooting 48.7 percent from the floor, which is respectable but also his lowest number since 2010.
And then came his 26-point performance against Atlanta on a career-best 11-of-13 shooting. ESPN Stats and Info provided D-Wade's shot chart for the evening. The graphic highlights an evening in which Wade shot a career-best 84.6 percent from the floor.
Thus eliminating the myth of his decline.
As for those who state that this is a flash in the pan, don't be so quick to declare Wade's return as a fluke. He made 9-of-12 shots against the New Orleans Hornets in the Heat's previous game (Dec. 8). Wade also connected on 14-of-20 shot attempts against the Brooklyn Nets earlier this month. Over his last five games, Wade boasts a stat line of .597/.429/.824.
This may not be enough for some to claim his return to superstardom, but it should prove that he's still capable of this level of performance. Keep in mind, D-Wade has been battling injuries for a majority of the 2012-13 regular season.
Most recently, Wade sprained his left foot (via The Sun Sentinel).
With D-Wade having established his return to stardom, the Miami Heat should return to their level of dominant consistency. We should also expect to see Wade restore his All-Star reputation.
As Kurt Helin of NBC Sports stated, that reputation shouldn't have been lost to begin with:
The reports of Dwyane Wade's demise have been greatly exaggerated.—Kurt Helin (@basketballtalk) December 11, 2012
I suppose it is time for Barkley to "shut up."