NBA: Heat duo still fond of one another

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 23, 2011

Associated Press
MIAMI — Dwyane Wade and LeBron James are known to bicker like brothers. They screamed at one another more than once during Miami Heat playoff games last season. And when they’re on opposite teams in practice, they attack the other like they would any opponent.
Now they’re closer than ever.
And on the cusp of entering Year 2 together with the Heat, Wade and James opened up about their friendship Friday in an interview with The Associated Press.
“I don’t think many players that have the similar games as we have or have done the things that we did in the league can come together this fast and make it work,” Wade said. “That communication is there. I don’t mind him saying something to me. I don’t mind when I have to say something to him. We know how to make it work.”
They have so much in common that both find it almost funny sometimes.
Forget the obvious stuff: They’re both among the NBA’s highest-paid players, then make another truckload of money annually in endorsements. They’re both among the league’s best scorers, perennial All-Stars, among the most recognizable athletes in the world. What’s often forgotten is the ties that really bind, like both having difficult times as kids, relying on one parent at a time and soon understanding that basketball was the vehicle for changing their lives.
James is 6-foot-8, Wade is 6-foot-4. James is from Akron, Wade from Chicago. James loves tattoos, Wade doesn’t have any. James went to the NBA straight out of high school, Wade went to college first.
Nonetheless, Wade and James basically look at each other as mirror images.
“That had a lot to do with me coming down here,” James said. “There’s nothing that I’ve seen that he hasn’t seen, and vice versa. To be able to be alongside him, be with him every day and basically go through the same things on the court and off the court, it’s great. Sometimes you’re able to sit back and see things from a different perspective instead of everybody watching you.”
They take their cues from each other, whether it is fashion, workout regimens or just where to sit sometimes. For Friday’s post-practice interview, Wade slid his body down a wall in a room adjacent to the Heat training facility, slumping to the floor.
“Tired,” Wade said.
Two minutes later, James entered the room. Even though he didn’t see how Wade took his seat, he did the same thing, putting his back to the wall and sliding to the red carpet.
“Tired,” James said.
Maybe it’s more than a coincidence.
“What’s the saying? Iron sharpens iron. Greatness breeds greatness,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “So you see an example of that next to you. Those guys want to be challenged. Those guys like to be challenged. They do not accept the success that they’ve had and where they are right now. They’re always trying to push to go to the next level. And there’s no better way for them to do that than to have an equal peer next to them, pushing them.”
The biggest question when Wade, James and Chris Bosh teamed up in July 2010 was will it work?
There have been bumps in the road, and likely there will be a few more — but they are making it work.
James finished second in the league in scoring, Wade finished fourth. Since 1965, the only other time two teammates were among the NBA’s top four scorers, and played for a team that went to the NBA finals was 2001, when Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal did it for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Of course, Bryant and O’Neal won the title; Dallas beat Miami in last season’s finals. And James and Wade will get yet another reminder of that defeat Sunday when the Heat open their season against the Mavericks — and watch the new champs raise their title banner.
“For us, getting better is not necessarily going to show in our numbers,” Wade said. “It’s going to show in our leadership. It’s going to show in those moments where we get in those games like the finals where we’re up 10 in the fourth quarter, how do we help our team get that win no matter what’s going on in the game. It’s moreso that, not just how we score the ball, rebound, pass. We’re going to have those numbers. It’s the other things.”
Last year in training camp, Wade and James wanted to be on separate teams in practice, trying to set a tone for workouts. This year, with an abbreviated training camp and the core of last year’s Eastern Conference championship team back, the mano-a-mano matchups haven’t happened much, their preference being to keep Miami’s first unit together as much as possible to get sharp for the season.
That’s fine with James and Wade.
“I’d rather not go against him,” James said. “We’re two competitors. We go against each other at practice at times. But I’ve found it’s definitely better to have him by my side.”
When the Heat got James, the team got a two-time MVP, and both players got — of all things — child-care help.
An interesting perk, for certain, but it’s just another tie that binds. James has two sons, Wade has two sons, and the kids are all of relatively similar ages. They hang out often, overnighting and playing together, sometimes going so late that the dads are still a bit sleepy when they arrive for work the next day. It speaks to the level of trust James and Wade have with each other as well.
The way they see it, if you can trust a teammate with your kids, you probably can trust him with the basketball with the game on the line, too.
“There’s things we knew from afar,” Wade said. “Our moms struggled. We both played this game at a high level. We knew that. But when you’re around each other every day, you get to really learn the ins and outs. Things that LeBron deals with sometimes, I’m like, ‘Oh my God, I got that call yesterday.’ It’s not a lot of things that you’d see that we have in common. But I understand him. And he understands me.”
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The Associated Press
12/23/11 16:08