If Miami Heat Wants to Win, Wade Needs to Take a Back Seat to Dragic

Even today, it's impossible to think about the Miami Dolphins for more than five minutes without Dan Marino popping into your head. There are Dolphins fans who watched their children age from birth to high-school graduation while Marino was in the spotlight. Dan Marino is treated like a family member in Miami these days. Police spot him at a restaurant and ask for a picture. He's a living legend. Local colleges should offer Dan Marino History 101 classes. He's a made man in Miami.

But it wasn't always that way.

Toward the end of his career, many fans asked, What have you done for me lately? Many wondered if letting him play out the final days of his career in Miami was hurting the team. It was a dirty little secret nobody wanted to talk about — until his own coach, Jimmy Johnson, started the conversation. 

"If physically he is not at the top of his game, I don't mind putting Craig Erickson in. But Dan is our starting quarterback," Johnson said after a 16-13 win over the Houston Oilers in 1997. "He's going to be in the Hall of Fame, and he's still playing great football." 

If any of this is starting to sound familiar, it should, because Dwyane Wade is battling the same issues as he reaches the end of his career. It's the new dirty little conversation nobody wants to have in Miami. You're a hater if you even bring it up. You're a Homer if you scoff at the idea the Heat would be better off not catering to Wade's brand of basketball.

The truth is that both sides have quite an argument to make. How loyal a person you are has a lot to do with which side of the tracks you stand on.  

But it shouldn't be about loyalty; it should be about how to best capitalize on Wade's best years before they are gone. That might mean less of Wade having to carry the entire team on his back and more of him being a central cog in a larger machine. 

Every time Wade leaves the court and the Heat has a little success, a vocal minority of Heat fans wonders if it's because Dwyane Wade isn't there. The hashtag #WithoutWade is a running joke among Heat fans, but the problem is that some aren't joking.  

Wade has missed two games since the All-Star break, and all the Heat has done is score 229 points in those two games without him and Chris Bosh. Goran Dragic and Luol Deng look like completely different players. The team is playing a Red Bull brand of up-tempo basketball that has resulted in a two-game sample-sized, rocket-fueled offense. The postgame locker-room quotes were littered with the same word that kept popping up — "fun." The players weren't shy about expressing their extreme pleasure in the style of basketball they've played since the All-Star break.

For Heat fans, it's been unexpected, confusing, and eye-opening, all at the same time. 

So what gives? Is the Heat staying away from a faster-paced offense centered on Goran Dragic because that style doesn't suit Wade at this point in his career?

The Heat's roster certainly suggests a fast-paced style is the way to go. The greater number of easy two-pointers a team can get, the fewer people notice that team is unable to sink a three if its life depended on it. But how does the Heat move forward playing a style that its greatest all-time player — who makes $20 million a season — cannot consistently play? How does the Heat get away from relying on a guy whose style of play has won it three championships? 

That's a question Heat fans might find themselves asking more frequently as the end of the season nears. Would you rather decrease your chances of winning by playing a style that makes Wade more comfortable or increase them while also running the risk of putting more pressure on Wade's knees and ego? 

Wade is a Heat Lifer. He gets it. He's still playing at an All-Star level. All of this is fantastic, but the results are the results. If the Heat wants to, against all odds, climb to the top of the East this season, it might come as a team centered on a style that suits Goran Dragic more than it does Dwyane Wade. 

We all love Dwyane Wade, but it's time to transfer some of the weight from his shoulders to others so he can succeed more often. 

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