Dwyane Wade, Cooking Again, Has Miami Heat Full of Hope Heading West

Ethan SkolnickNBA Senior WriterFebruary 4, 2014

USA Today

MIAMI — Maybe Dwyane Wade needs to get out of the house a little more.

Or, at least, the kitchen.

The Miami Heat guard had no clue about what many fans call him on Twitter? No idea about what occurs every time he's having a game like this, a game in which he's got everything going, when he's, well, cooking? No kidding? He's never heard about "Chef Wade"? 

"No," Wade said through a laugh Monday, just before leaving the locker room, and after leaving 30 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and a 102-96 Heat win over the Detroit Pistons in his wake. "No. Really? No." 

Yes. Some fans have been calling him that on social media for something like three years. 

"Really?!" Wade said. "I didn't know that. For three years?! Why haven't I noticed that?" 

Well, maybe because he's noticed other characterizations of him, not nearly so complimentary, as he's struggled to deal with knee injuries. Even some that are meant to recognize his strong play have struck him the wrong way.

He's heard of "Vintage Wade," right?

"Yeah, I'm aware of that one," he said. 

And he doesn't like it? Because it implies he isn't what he was?

"Yeah, yeah, I'm ready to get away from that one," Wade said. "I like the Chef Wade one better. I'm ready to get away from the Vintage one." 

Whatever fans call him, the Heat just hope to get more nights like this. Nights when he is aggressive early, often and everywhere, getting in the lane, stepping into his jumper, creating plays for others, even stroking a three and striking a pose. Nights that pause the panic and disprove the doubters. Nights that the talk isn't about his knees, but about the way he brought defenders to theirs. 

After a stretch in which he missed five games and scored eight in three others, Wade has now scored 15, 22 and 30 in the Heat's past three, while making 30 of 46 shots. But statistics don't tell the story so much as his stride, which appears sure and explosive again, just in time for the Heat to travel to Los Angeles, Utah, Phoenix and Golden State to play the Clippers, Jazz, Suns and Warriors before the All-Star break. 

"You know if he has a bounce in his step or not," said LeBron James, who finished with 24 points, eight rebounds and 11 assists, again barely missing his first triple-double of the season. "This last week or so, he's had a bounce in his step. And when he's landing on two feet on his jump shots, and he's Eurostepping, he's feeling pretty good."

Monday, Wade even felt good enough to steal a rebound from James, because he wanted his own double-double. 

"Some of the moves he makes, he only makes when he's feeling good," Shane Battier said. "You can tell." 

And it was apparent that he continued to feel that way throughout his 37 minutes, which Erik Spoelstra later acknowledged was more than he had intended to award. Spoelstra reiterated that he believed the Heat made the right decision by shutting Wade down for eight days after the 10-time All-Star experienced soreness on the most recent road trip, and he promised that the Heat would try to maintain a proactive training routine on the upcoming one. 

"All that work has been paying off," Spoelstra said. 

So is something else, even if Spoelstra downplayed it: strategic adjustment.

"The majority of it is him feeling good about his body and his health and his quickness, and that's all there," Spoelstra said. "The X's and O's don't matter as much if your X's and O's aren't feeling well. But I've tried to get him into his comfort zone, his wheelhouse a little bit more, just to activate him."

Wade clearly would welcome that. After the Heat lost to Oklahoma City on Wednesday, Wade spoke of being a "setup guy," getting off the ball, facilitating for others. He didn't seem especially thrilled about it, either.

But plenty has been different in the two games since.

"In the OKC game, I think he (saw) that the second unit needed something different," Wade said. "And, you know, I wanted it to be me, obviously. And I think he did a great job, by the next game, of coming up with a package that can make that lineup better, and give us a better opportunity. And that was kind of putting the ball in my hands and letting me make the play."

Wade said now that he's been given that responsibility, he needs to cut back on the turnovers: He had five against the Knicks and six against the Pistons. That's the way for Spoelstra to keep putting together what he calls "a solid package" of offensive assignments. 

Foremost among them is the high pick-and-roll, a privilege largely granted to James as of late. 

"It helps me a lot," Wade said. "I'm like a quarterback, I need to see. I need to see everything in front of me. And I'm able to be aggressive obviously for myself, but I'm also able to see where my shooters are, where my big guys are rolling. I've made the adjustment and played out of the corners and all these things as well, but where I love to play is at the top. Just getting an opportunity at certain times, for the last two games, has been pretty cool." 

Given better ingredients, Wade has cooked quite a meal. 

Chef Wade, right?

"That's funny, because my kids called me Chef the other day when I cooked breakfast for them," said Wade, who posted a photo of that experience on Instagram. "I was Chef DW around the house. But Chef Wade. OK, I didn't know that. OK."

More than OK for Miami.