By Ira Winderman, Sun Sentinel –
MIAMI — Dwyane Wade said he will be ready.
Ready for the start of the Heat’s championship defense, even if it means having to sit out the early stages of training camp as he recovers from July 9 arthroscopic knee surgery.
Ready for the challenge of a rebuilt Lakers team that has added Dwight Howard, Steve Nash . . . and stolen some of the glare off the Heat.
Ready for yet another step forward by teammate LeBron James, who Wade said very much looks like a player poised to move a step closer in stature to Wade’s boyhood idol, Michael Jordan.
Relaxed and refreshed Friday as he prepared to oversee his adult basketball camp, the Heat’s All-Star guard embraced the challenges ahead.
Foremost, he said he would be ready for the Heat’s regular-season opener on Oct. 30 against the Celtics. But he also said he might not be on the court when the Heat open training camp the final week of September.
“The biggest thing is not rushing into anything, take my time,” he said. “My biggest worry is to be ready Oct. 30. So, obviously, as training camp goes on, I’ll work myself into it, as I continue to get stronger, as I continue to work out with my knee.
“I can’t start really working out until the first week of September. I don’t want to do too much.”
Wade’s commitment to opening night was such that he opted for surgery in the immediate wake of the Heat’s championship rather than reuniting with many of his 2004 Olympic gold-medal teammates at the London Games. Instead, he merely visited there as a spectator.
“It was very difficult not to be part of the team,” he said.
“Because it was kind of the guys I played with. Obviously, I had a decision to make. If I wanted to, I could have been boneheaded and said, ‘No, I’m just going to play in the Olympics’ and then get surgery after that or go through the season next year and feel nothing bad happens. But I had to make a smart decision for my career and for the franchise that I made a promise to.”
Instead, he witnessed continued growth by James, who emerged as the same Olympic leader that he was for the Heat in being named Most Valuable Player of both the regular season and NBA Finals.
“Just watching LeBron play, I mean he’s just playing at a different gear right now,” Wade said. “That monkey is off his back and now he’s just playing basketball. I think we’ll continue to see a better LeBron James — it’s scary to say, a three-time MVP — than we’ve seen.
“He played exceptionally well.”
Jordan well? That is a debate Wade called reasonable, but also still somewhat premature.
“He’s on that level,” Wade said, “but he has a lot more to do to get there. I think he understands he has an unbelievable opportunity to be one of the greatest to play this game. But that’s when he gets done playing, he can say that.
“Right now, he has so much more to cover in his career. He’s just getting started at the same time when Michael kind of just got started.”
Then there is the debate about the NBA’s top team, with the Lakers establishing a formidable barrier to the Heat’s quest to repeat.
“Los Angeles Lakers doing what Los Angeles Lakers do, make big moves,” Wade said of their additions of Howard and Nash. “They’re giving themselves a chance to win a championship.
“They still got to come together. They got veteran guys that’s willing and want to come together, so it’s going to be interesting.”
As for the Lakers stealing some of the attention the Heat have dominated these past two Big Three seasons? Wade smiled.
“For a little while, yeah,” he said. “And they can have it. They’re used to it. I’m sure Kobe Bryant is smiling a little bit.
“For us, it’s great. Dwight has been a thorn in our side in the East. It’s cool he’s in the West now. We’ll see him when we see him.”