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Is Dwyane Wade just having a slow start or is this something bigger?

Dec 7, 2012, 3:56 PM EDT

San Antonio Spurs v Miami Heat Getty Images

The Miami Heat did not lose to the New York Knicks solely because Dwyane Wade had a 3-of-13 off night shooting. They lost because the Knicks are playing well and the Heat’s defense is not.

But Wade certainly didn’t help.

And we’ve seen a lot more of this Dwyane Wade this season. The one that looks a little off, a little slow. If you’ve watched a lot of Heat basketball you don’t need an avalanche of statistics to tell you that Wade is not himself — he is scoring 19.4 points per game, lowest since his rookie year, his shooting percentage of 47.3 is the lowest since 2008 for him, he is shooting 25 percent from three (and he missed some open ones against the Knicks) plus Hoopdata shows he is shooting just 31.1 percent on shots from between 3 and 15 feet out (and taking 4.5 shots a game in that range). His PER of 20.4 is the lowest since his rookie year.

A look through Synergy Sports shows Wade shooting just 30.8 percent in isolation sets and 34.6 percent when he posts somebody up. Those account for 30 percent of his shot attempts.

Isolation and post up spots are where it’s Wade using his superior athleticism to get his shot. Except it hasn’t looked that superior this season. You saw it against the Knicks when he got his good looks with step backs as people feared him on the drive, but when he did drive the lane he couldn’t elevate to get clean looks.

Wade has not been bad this season — he’s had great games, including dropping 34 on the Nets — but he hasn’t been his old self. And the
Heat need that old Wade at both ends of the floor come April and beyond.

Which begs the question — is this a temporary thing or is it something bigger picture?

Wade is coming off knee surgery this summer and that certainly is part of the issue. It takes a while for people to fully recover, which seems to be the case here.

But Charles Barkley said on TNT he thought it something more, the decline of Wade with age. Wade certainly has been a player who threw his body around throughout his career.

“He’s starting to lose his athletic ability,” Barkley said of Wade, who will turn 31 in a month. “He’s not the same guy. I got a better look at him in person. He doesn’t explode anymore and he’s shooting a lot of fade-away jumpers.”

He’s right. After re-watching every Wade shot of the last couple weeks he is living and dying by the step back, but teams are going to catch on at some point and force him to drive. Force him to use the athleticism they all once feared.

We’ll have to see if he can make teams pay for that.

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