Dwyane Wade saw the furious reaction of jilted fans who burned jerseys and wailed in the streets when LeBron James ditched the Cleveland Cavaliers, so it's easy to see why he'd very much like to avoid being blamed if LBJ leaves the Miami Heat as a free agent.
"Just don't solely put it on me," Wade told USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt, laughing. "That's what I'm saying. Don't put the X on me. ... There's a lot that goes into, so just don't say, 'If Dwyane Wade doesn't have the year that we're accustomed to, it's over.'"
Half-joking, Wade was referring to the uncertainty surrounding his future health. After missing a whopping 28 games this past season because of a troublesome knee, Wade is smart enough to foresee a potential outcry against him if James exercises his early-termination option this summer.
From James' perspective, it would make perfect sense to leave the Heat behind if he wasn't convinced Wade could stay healthy enough to reprise his supporting role next year. And it's also worth noting that LBJ shouldered a heavy load with Wade out this past season, something he might not be willing or able to endure again.
Zillgitt wrote, "But truth is, when James looks at his options and tries to determine which team has the best shot of winning a championship next season and beyond, a healthy Wade makes the Heat's chances of keeping James."
There's no question Wade's health will be a huge factor in James' upcoming decision, which hopefully, won't be as dramatic as The Decision.
But Wade is also correct in saying his health won't be the only thing determining James' future.
The four-time MVP will also weigh the fitness of other destinations, the difficulty of reaching the Finals from either conference, what coach he might like to play under, which teammates he'd like to play with, the roots he's already put down in Miami and any of 100 other concerns.
Wade's health will matter, but it won't be the decisive factor.
Besides, D-Wade has played his best basketball in the playoffs, and he's been particularly deadly against the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals. With averages of 22 points per game on 56.5 percent shooting, it's clear Wade is rounding into form when it matters most.
That'll go a long way toward appeasing James, whose only goal at this point in his career is to bolster his already impressive legacy with more championship rings.
And if Miami adopts the San Antonio Spurs' approach to player conservation next year (something every contender should probably consider), there's a good chance James and Wade will take plenty of games off anyway. We've already seen that home-court advantage wasn't necessary for the Heat to do serious damage in the postseason.
They're 12-2 in the playoffs and on the brink of eliminating the Pacers in Indiana.
With no real superpowers emerging in the East, Miami could take an even more casual approach to the regular season next year—with Wade, James and anybody else worn down by four consecutive deep playoff runs sitting out as necessary.
If Wade suffers some catastrophic injury between now and when James has to make an official decision, anything's possible. But if James can count on his running mate for another season like this one—which he probably can—there's little danger of Wade taking the blame for LeBron's departure.
Mostly because LBJ won't be going anywhere.
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