Is Dwayne Wade Finally Feeling LeBron's Pain?

Jeffrey SantonAnalyst IJanuary 22, 2008

Dwyane Wade and LeBron James have forced their way to the forefront of what may be referred to as "THE Draft" for a long time to come—namely the 2003 NBA Draft that produced the NBA's future including LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade. Other worthy notables were TJ Ford, Chris Kamon, Kirk Hindrich, and Josh Howard.

This draft was impossible for a GM to miss.

In most people's minds the homerun picks were at one and five (with all due respect to No. 3 Carmelo and No. 4 Bosh). LeBron made a impact that had the Cleveland Cavs fighting for a playoff birth following a season in which they were one of the worst teams in basketball. Nobody could argue LeBron's scary size combined with his speed and basketball IQ at such a young age. The bar was immediately set sky high with talks of him possibly developing into the greatest player ever.

Dwyane Wade was solid all of his rookie season and his team made the playoffs. His hype went into overdrive after leading his team in the playoffs and making a run at the NBA finals. Talk of Wade being true rookie of the year due to his performance in the playoffs ensued.

Soon the Miami Heat would make a few Blockbuster trades and Big Daddy Shaq would compliment the young talented Wade. An NBA Championship followed. Things were looking up in Miami and Wade had something LeBron did not: a World Championship.

LeBron continued to make noise though, even reaching the NBA finals last year, but some critics still blast him with every chance they get, with what seem to be at times impossible expectations.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have been unable to get over the hump due to some lingering contracts that are eating up cap space, as well as some key acquisitions over this period not working out as planned. Many nights for the Cavs since the LeBron era began have looked like a one on five match with LeBron dribbling around, virtually having to get through all five defenders to force-feed buckets. Cleveland fans often question which Cavs team is going to take the floor, but they can always count on LeBron.

An up-and-down team that can go from unbeatable one night to average at best the next is currently riding a hot streak that has seen a Cleveland bench awaken with Damon Jones reemerging to hit critical late buckets, and Anderson Varejao finally looking to be himself after a contract dispute that had him missing a good portion of the season's start.

LeBron is beginning to acquire the hunger late in games that many wondered if he would ever have. This might be in part due to his recent NBA finals experience.

LeBron currently leads the NBA in fourth quarter scoring with Dwyane Wade right behind him. Both have had a few fourth quarters in which they battled back and forth with playoff intensity, trading bucket for bucket. The situation for Wade though is beginning to take on that of LeBron's early in his career, with a lack of a supporting cast. Shaq appears to finally be wearing down and at times looks to be lethargic and helpless defensively...and teams are taking notice.

At times in last night's contest, Wade's double and triple teams looked eerily similar to the ones LeBron has been fighting throughout his career. Wade, being the fantastic player he is, put up 42 points in another losing effort, bringing the Heat's losing streak to 14 straight and a league worst 8-32. Miami coach Pat Riley is struggling to find answers and without Shaq being Shaq it doesn't look like it will get any better in the near future.

Can Wade carry a team without the resources to significantly help them back to respectability?

So far it doesn't seem promising. Last night Wade's teammates watched him attempt to single-handily mount a comeback through an entire team of defenders. His team at times looked like paying customers watching him. This is something LeBron has been dealing with year in and year out.

Wade was attempting to put the team on his shoulders to end this losing streak, but to no avail. He was being worked way too hard for buckets. His ability to continue to carry a losing team while avoiding injury and fatigue is doubtful.

Can Wade find a way to make average players excel the way LeBron can? The true definition of a superstar around the NBA is a player with the ability to do so. In a NBA season that is virtually halfway over, only time will tell.

Playoffs for the Heat are unlikely with Shaq down and Pat Riley historically running his game plans through a big man. In my humble opinion, if Dwyane Wade wants to be mentioned in the same breath as LeBron James he is going to have to find a way to win games and bring this Heat back to respectability whether it be by freakish individual play or finding a way to get the boys in Heat jerseys back into it.

Wade and LeBron are known to be pretty good friends and if I were a betting man I would bet that LeBron is challenging Wade in a time that seems to be for no real significance to many.

The challenge: Welcome to my world in the NBA Dwyane, watcha got?

We'll find out in the remaining 42 games.