5 Best Months of Dwyane Wade's Miami Heat Career

Ethan SkolnickNBA Senior WriterMarch 1, 2013

5 Best Months of Dwyane Wade's Miami Heat Career

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    Sometimes, Erik Spoelstra spits back.

    That was the case late on a Saturday night in Philadelphia, after the Miami Heat coach watched Dwayne Wade make 14-of-18 shots for 33 points, and contribute to another victory.

    Wade played prominent role in many Heat wins in February, as Miami lost just once.

    “You know what?” Spoelstra said. “The human natural reaction for us was to roll our eyes at the beginning of the year, or even a handful of weeks ago, when people were criticizing him. He’s having a career year efficiency-wise.”

    That's true, with Wade shooting 51.6 percent from the field.

    And as brilliantly as he's played of late, shooting 63.1 percent over his past four games, February was actually only his second-most efficient month of this season—at least by that single metric.

    In February 2013, he shot 53.2 percent from the field, while averaging 23.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.5 assists.

    In December 2012, when so many national commentators—including Charles Barkley—were calling him out, with Barkley asserting that Wade was "losing his talent"?

    That month shot 54.7 percent from the field, while averaging 21.1 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists.

    There's no question that Wade looks healthier and springier lately.

    As LeBron James noted, after Wade led a comeback against Cleveland:

    “He was just in attack mode,” James said. “We ran some sets, were able to get him some really good looks, he was able to get some ‘and-1s,’ and once he gets into the paint and starts making shots, you could kind of see he had a bounce to his step.”

    It's all made you say "WoW," or at least Wade hopes so. That's the nickname he's been trying to get fans and media to adopt and even James, who considers it "corny," to accept. It's an acronym for Way of Wade, a slogan used by the Li-Ning shoe company he endorses.

    "Just having fun," Wade said. "Everybody don't take it too seriously."

    Wade's play of late deserves to be taken quite seriously -- and his success speaks to his ability to adjust to changes in his body, and the offense.

    But, believe it or not, he's had five even better months.

    (All quotes for this piece were collected during the course of the author's coverage of the Miami Heat for the Palm Beach Post. All statistics were accurate as of Thursday afternoon.)

February 2012: Doing More with Less

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    At his fantasy basketball camp in the summer of 2012, Dwyane Wade was asked to reflect back on February of the season before, which ranked as among the most efficient seasons of his career.

    "I enjoyed that," Wade said. "I really enjoyed that. Ideally, that's where I would like to be. When I know when I'm playing, I'm a lot more efficient, I get in and I get out."

    What did Wade get out of his 30.8 per minutes per outing, the fewest of that season?

    Plenty.

    He averaged 24.5 points on 55.7 percent shooting in those 13 games. 

    He even shot 84.7 percent from the line, well above his career norm.

    He showed that, even with LeBron James taking a step forward in the offense, he could still find his spots, and his shots.

    Miami's record?

    That was 11-2.

    Wade's workload would increase by four minutes per game in March, and his scoring average would actually dip some. Then, in the playoffs, he would struggle at times with knee swelling and soreness.

    But that might have been worse if he hadn't been so economical back in February, a month that Heat fans enjoyed as much as he did.

December 2010: Busting Through with the Big 3

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    Smooth sailing?

    That's what everyone expected when the Big Three came together in Miami.

    Instead, in December 2010, the era already appeared headed for a shipwreck.

    When Miami lost in Dallas on Nov. 27, the Heat had not only fallen to 9-8, but was cracking under the weight of the scrutiny. After a team-only meeting in the visiting locker room, the Heat closed November with an easy home win against a weak Washington squad.

    Still, the entire experiment was teetering as December opened.

    That's when Dwyane Wade, the Heat's holdover superstar, helped hold it all together.

    He averaged 27.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and 4.1 assists—with 54.3 percent shooting from the field—in 15 games. He closed the month with 40 and 45 points, respectively, against the Knicks and Rockets.

    He even shot 39.5 percent from 3-point range, which has never been his strongest suit.

    LeBron James wasn't bad either—averaging 25.2 points on 51.1 percent—as Miami went 15-1 for the month.

    James would accelerate his scoring pace in January to 30.6 points per game.

    And over their time together, Wade would take even more of a step back.

    But when Miami needed him to step forward, he made a major difference.

November 2004: A Star Breaks Through

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    Dwyane Wade had already announced himself to the NBA as someone worth watching.

    He did so during 2004's brilliant rookie playoff run for the Miami Heat, hitting big shots against the New Orleans Hornets in the first round, and dunking over Jermaine O'Neal.

    He did so at times during his time with the U.S. team in the 2004 Olympics.

    He did so, to such dramatic effect, that it got Shaquille O'Neal's notice on the West Coast, with the Los Angeles Lakers center making it clear that he would welcome a trade to Miami, so long as Wade wasn't part of the exchange.

    But, for all his promise as a rookie, it still wasn't a sure thing that he could become a full-fledged star, and thus a worthy sidekick to Shaq.

    Before the first home game of the 2004-05 season, Wade welcomed the Miami crowd:

    "We want to thank you guys for coming out. You look good in black. Help us make some memorable moments, like y'all did last year, and we can have some fun."

    Then he had quite a bit, with 28 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals.

    It was clear that while Shaq would bring them in, Wade would bring them back.

    He was taking the most difficult step in sports, up the ladder to stardom.

    For the month of November, Wade would average 24.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 7.4 assists, while shooting 51.4 percent and taking 11.1 free throws.

    Star?

    Sure thing.

February 2006: Warming Up for a Title

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    The 2005-06 Miami Heat didn't always look like a title team.

    After reaching the Conference Finals the previous season and making major offseason changes, the Heat didn't seem all that cohesive or committed during the regular season. Much of that attitude trickled down from their flip-the-switch center Shaquille O'Neal.

    By February of 2006, Stan Van Gundy was out as coach and Pat Riley was in.

    The Heat needed to get rolling or else continue slipping in the seeding.

    Dwyane Wade played 10 games in that month.

    He scored at least 30 points in six of those.

    Miami won eight times.

    He averaged 29.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 6.5 assists, and shot 55.7 percent from the field. 

    In back-to-back wins against Orlando, he scored 74 points—and, with all of his attacking, made 28 free throws.

    That was O'Neal's best offensive month of the season as well, averaging 21.2 points and shooting a ridiculous 64.3 percent from the floor.

    Still, it was clear by that point that Wade would need to carry much of the scoring load, with O'Neal often serving as a decoy.

    And it was clear that he was up to it.

March 2009: On His Own, and Never Better

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    In the most dominant month of Dwyane Wade's career, the Miami Heat went 8-8.

    That doesn't seem possible, but that's what happens when two of the team's top scorers (Michael Beasley, Mario Chalmers) are rookies, when Daequan Cook gets heavy minutes, and when the most accomplished other veteran (Shawn Marion) is traded for a declining center (Jermaine O'Neal) at the trade deadline to create future cap flexibility. 

    Without the unbelievable way that Wade played, Miami might have been 4-12 that month, and never had a shot to sneak into the playoffs at 43-39.

    Forty-one points against Cleveland.

    Thirty-five points and 16 assists against Phoenix.

    Forty-two points—on 17 of 23 shooting—in Toronto.

    Forty-eight points and 12 assists against Chicago.

    Fifty points, 10 rebounds and nine assists in double overtime against Utah.

    Thirty-nine points in Detroit.

    And, to close it out, 42 points against Orlando.

    On average:33.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 7.9 assists.

    All while shooting 50.1 percent.

    For a month, he was the best player in the game.

    That was true even if half of the games ended with an L.