Dancing With Noah

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Tag Archives: Dwyane Wade

Enigmatic Approaches to the Three-Point Shot featuring Dwyane Wade

As part of what’s become a completely random foray into the pre-season here at Dancing with Noah, today we’re exploring some strange comments by Miami Heat lifer, three-time NBA champion, and Li Ning-shoe lover, Dwyane Wade. On the Miami Herald’s Sports Buzz blog, writer Barry Jackson shares Wade’s recent comments:

“I’m not falling in love with the three but [will be] shooting it more than the last couple of years,” he said. “Coach hasn’t told me I could shoot threes the last couple years. So just him saying that is a different mindset.”

In Jackson’s own words, he specifies “corner threes,” which appears to be a league-wide trend and one need not stress too hard to imagine a future where the corner three is as fundamental as the Mikan Drill with pickup ballplayers racing to tight corners in droves while creative coaches strive to create defensive schemes leveraging corner traps.

Awkwardly enough, it was just over a week ago that ESPN’s Tom Haberstroh tweeted out:

As a player with dwindling athleticism due in no small part to a roughshod playing style that has seen him spend a good portion of his career picking himself up off the floor after countless fearless forays to the hoop (Wade’s averaged over eight free throws/game for his career – only three other players in league history who have been 6’4” or shorter have averaged as many FTAs), Wade no longer has the same lateral quickness or straight forward explosiveness that marked his first 500+ games. That he would choose to not work on his long ball is a questionable choice.

But contextually speaking, it could just be Wade was worn out from playing so many high stress minutes over the past four seasons. Maybe he saw LeBron leaving and decided to give himself a break this past summer.  For his career, Wade’s three-point shooting has oscillated somewhere between below average (31.7% in 2009) and very bad (17.1% in 2006) with no trends indicating improvement in either volume or rate. If he’s done any work on the long ball in the past, it hasn’t stuck. Whatever the case, his comments that Coach Erik Spoelstra may be open to more Wade threes appears to be a poor idea or unlikely misinformation.

If we drill deeper into Wade’s corner-three ability, we see a player who rarely finds himself in the corners. Corner three attempts make up 1.5% of the total shots he’s taken in his career and over the past three seasons it’s made up less than one percent of his shot volume. And that makes sense because he’s a career 28% from corner threes. To put that in context, no single team has shot below 30% from corner threes in any of the past three seasons. As players are gaining efficiency and shooting more threes (and corner threes), Wade’s shot less of them, but to his credit, has made a few more (10-26 from the corners – over 172 games!). This is a guy who shot less than one three per 100 possessions last season. For more perspective, the only other non-post players who shot threes as infrequently as Wade were Michael Kidd-Gilchrest and Shaun Livingston.

So Dwyane Wade didn’t work on threes this off-season, he’s struggled without the shot for the duration of his career, Miami lost the great LeBron James, Wade’s no longer the same attack threat so it’s less likely he’ll have a big cushion (unless he keeps missing), and yet he may shoot more threes? Welcome to life after LeBron, a place where all options are on the table.

You’re Never Really Alone

Game four on Tuesday was a glorious mess. I was stuck in a texting mood for the duration of the game and saw the themes and storylines that have taken time to develop rise up to the surface with faces grinning or grimacing (we see you, LeBron). If we weren’t sure who we were watching or what they stood for, we have an idea of it now. Of course, with a guaranteed two more games and potentially three more games, everyone—from Brian Cardinal to the great Dwyane Wade—can continue to work on their own personal definitions of who they are.

(Not to get all off topic here, but the Tyson Chandler/Eddy Curry connection is ignored far too often. These high school twin towers were going to paint the Chicago streets with Jordanesque parades. Instead, their careers, personalities and reputations rolled up on poetic fork in the road and without a glance in each other’s direction, they scampered on towards their destinies, amnesic to the other’s existence. I can’t help but wonder if either guy ever has daydreams or nightmares about what could’ve been.)  

Back to the present; above all else, Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade, the warriors returned to the same battleground five years later, have imprinted their individual brands on these finals. Dirk’s been doing it all playoffs and has a great hype man every couple nights in Mike Breen. Wade forced a bumpy ride through his old stomping grounds (haunted by the shadow of Mike?), but the rest of the crew was down for theirs. Now in the finals it’s Dwyane’s turn.  (If Wade and Dirk got together during the 2008 Olympics or the 2010 World Championships and agreed to meet in the finals in 2011 as a fifth-year anniversary of their first finals matchup, would the righteous scribes be as indignant as they were about the Wade/Bron/Bosh meetings? Wouldn’t it be a more interesting story if the big German and the native Chicagoan had some kind of hidden code of honor that was settled every five years on the court?)

Through the first four games of the finals, Dirk’s putting up over 26 points/game, pulling 10 rebounds/game and even blocking a shot a night. Against one of the best defenses in the league, this shit is not easy. Other than being white, he’s not like Bird. Other than having the flu in the NBA Finals, he’s not like MJ. He’s fucking unique in more ways than just being a dominant German in the NBA. His game is his own, but his relentlessness is his overlooked trademark. From the opening to the end of every game, he attacks, catching the ball at the top or in the mid-post, throwing shot fakes, hesitations and stutters, fading away into an arc of perfection, occasionally driving, but always attacking with one technique or another. But even heroes fail. In game three, it was Dirk’s turn to run out of classic-making magic. In the last minute of what ended up being a two-point loss, Dirk threw the ball away and then missed one of those jumpers that he does not miss.

His former executioner has been busy too: a hair under 30 points/game, 8 rebounds, over a block and 58% shooting from the field—for a two guard. If there was a symbol of vitality for the 2011 NBA Finals, it would be called Dwyane Wade and it would run faster, jump higher and try harder than other symbol you could find. Dwyane Wade wants to win more than anyone else. Some guys in jerseys in Dallas might disagree, but to the impartial observer, Wade’s lifted his effort to a new place and it’s lonely there because no one else in these finals is capable of joining him. For all the “In His Face!” moments Wade has produced in these finals, he failed and fumbled at the most inopportune times on Tuesday night. Where Dirk turned the ball over and missed a contested jumper, Wade missed a potential game-tying free throw and fumbled away a pass in the last thirty seconds of game four.

All along we thought Wade and Bron were brothers in arms, but night after night, it’s being revealed that Wade and Dirk are more closely related while Bron and Wade are maybe just friends (what up homie?). This isn’t part of the pile-on-LeBron sentiment that’s so prevalent on the internets. LeBron will have his opportunities (beginning on Thursday night), but as of game four two players have stolen the spotlight and are dueling for a right to history or honor or some shit. While the world continues to fume and flame and troll about the Decision and the audacity of superstars banding together, Dirk’s hitting up Wade on his burner and consoling him about the missed free throw and fumbled pass.

It's Deeper than Balboa & Creed

Return to Canadian Stylings

I watched game three of the Eastern Conference Finals last night from the comforts and smoky hospitality of the Mandalay Bay Sports Book. Most games I watch are from the quiet and familiarity of my apartment and couch. Being surrounded by a hundred or so obnoxious gamblers watching a basketball game was refreshing. I’m usually chided for screaming at the TV, but here I was among the likeminded; united by a mix of basketball and money.

It was in that setting that I took in the gritty play of celebrities in South Beach. At a first thought, it’s not natural to associate defense and battling with the quartet of LeBron, Wade, Bosh and Derrick Rose. You see Bron and Wade specifically with their little cardigans and v-necks in the post-game press conferences, but fortunately fashion tastes don’t preclude on-court efforts. We knew it would be a defensive series so it’s no shock to see the 48-minute grind bleeding into every half court possession and leading to momentum-driving Miami fast breaks that cracked the Bulls backs just like they did Boston’s.

For a game and series that leans closer to the ethos of Joakim Noah, it was a surprise to see Chris Bosh spit in the collective faces of his critics. Noah was frustrated and out of rhythm. He committed fouls (questionable or not), stewed on the bench and failed to provide the right kind of energy that the Bulls expect and need from him. Bosh, by contrast, delivered on fades, jumpers, spins and dunks and while his Gasolian screams after fouls or dunks continue to feel artificial or at least misplaced (the screams are aimed more at the critics than his opponents), he was the Heat’s most productive and consistent player in game three. With Bosh as the go-to, any questions about the mythic tug of war between Bron and Wade are questions that didn’t exist on this Sunday.

Lost in Bosh’s Raptor throwback was the one of the better statistical games we’ve seen from Boozer in these playoffs. He went for 27 and 17, but failed to hit any field goals in a fourth quarter where the Bulls were outscored by eight.

The common theme this season between Bosh and Boozer has been their inabilities to fit in to which I can only imagine must be confusing. They’ve both been criticized for failing to replicate their previous successes which is unfair and rarely possible given the current circumstances. When they both arrived in full on Sunday night, it was Bosh who received the greater support while Boozer was left trying to carry Chicago in a role all-too-familiar to Rose.

For Bosh to make 34 points against the league’s best defense look so easy reconfirms the potential of this Miami team. His identity isn’t the same as it was in Toronto and it never will be again, but games like tonight are reminders of the versatility of his game and the value of a skilled seven footer—even if he is a little on the soft side. Boozer’s productivity opposite of Rose’s struggles last night reinforced a suspicion I have that Boozer and Rose suffer from compatibility issues. The injuries and lack of on-court time between the two (or three if you consider Noah’s injuries earlier this year) are well known, but until Rose and Boozer are able to co-exist as scorers, the Bulls will have trouble scoring enough points to win in this series.

The Heat, with its three elite scorers combined with Bron’s and Wade’s versatility, doesn’t share these same problems. Their problems consist of things like who stole Mike Miller’s basketball soul, how can they get his soul back and how can they keep Jamaal Magloire out of the arena.

Someone Great and his Silly Dance Partners

Tuesday night’s Western Conference Finals opener was the rolling hills of basketball emotions for me. I watched like the rest of NBA world did while Dirk Nowitzki piled on points, two at a time, possession after possession. It was exquisite and dirty at the same time. When the whistles started rolling in in the third quarter, I flashed back to the summer of 2006 when Dwyane Wade marched through Dallas defenders on the shoulders of refs blowing whistles like heavenly basketball trumpets. It’s an uncomfortable feeling to see someone so great perform like a genius, but feel the need to associate the performance with some kind of qualifier, but here I am.

There are three parties privy to this performance: Dirk (innocent of any wrong doing), the Thunder defenders (guilty of ignorance and the wrong kind of flexibility) and the refs (guilty of something like pathetic officiating). Dirk was on one tonight. It didn’t matter who defended him or how they did it, he was hitting gaggles of jump shots and forced Thunder defenders to foul him 16 times. The fouls were a mix of stupidity on OKC’s part (example: Durant switched to Dirk and picked up back-to-back fouls on the same stupid reach) and tender whistles by the refs. Dirk didn’t need to be bailed out by anyone. He was good enough tonight to earn his own segment on ESPN Classic or 30 for 30 or some German equivalent. But the opposition and the officials insisted on giving him a boost.

 

That’s Dirk’s shot chart from the game tonight and it’s brilliant. 12-15 on contested jumpers and a few drives? I think every OKC player who stepped on the court (except for Maynor and Nate Robinson) took their turn with Dirk and each one was equally ineffective. It was like a Manny Pacquiao fight where the opposition can’t implement their strategy because Dirk/Manny forces you to play/fight his style. What’s not listed in that shot chart is the 24 points Dirk scored on trips to the line. I can’t recall a player shooting this many jumpers and making a living at the line.

OKC tried speed, quickness, strength, wiry guys, athletes, black guys, a white guy, a Swiss guy and a Congolese; but Dirk refused to discriminate and ate them all up. What they refused to do was adapt to the whistles. Yeah, I thought the officiating was soft trash. For the most part, it was consistent though. OKC attacked more (40 points in the paint to 36 by Dallas) and was rewarded with more trips to the line (43 to 36), but they hurt themselves by refusing to adjust to the tick tack calls. The Durant example I used earlier was just one of many where OKC defenders tried different methods, usually physically aggressive, and were whistled for fouls, then did the same thing again. Towards the end of the game Ibaka made an adjustment (keeping a hand in Dirk’s face as opposed to using his body to get in close and inevitably be called for a foul) that was at least semi-effective in the sense that he wasn’t called for fouls and limited Dirk’s efficiency.

A lot of NBA fans still associate the 2006 finals with D. Wade’s mastery and the bump he received from the refs. Depending on what happens in this series and the finals, this will either go down as a singularly great one-game performance or a big shiny star symbolic of and solidifying to Dirk’s place in NBA history. For both players and performances, the one point lost in between the hyperbolic commentaries and cynical asterisks is the ability of both Dirk and Wade to recognize the bend in the rules and exploit the living hell out of it.

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