Other Sports
Wade takes his game global
By Israel Gutierrez
Aug 12, 2004

(miamiherald.com) - Twelve years ago, the Olympic basketball tournament separated itself from the rest of the Games when the first U.S. Dream Team dominated in Barcelona on its way to a gold medal.

The victory transformed the basketball team from a group of amateurs looking for one shining moment into a collection of professionals jockeying for international bragging rights.

But this year, with Team USA fielding its youngest team since 1988, some players can do like previous collegians did and use the Olympics as a coming-out party.

Dwyane Wade is among those. The Heat guard has already received national attention for his impressive playoff performances. But based on the praise he has received from U.S. coaches and teammates, Wade has only begun to make an impression. He's about to go global.

''He's special,'' U.S. head coach Larry Brown said of Wade, pausing momentarily to make sure the listener knows this is not just lip service. ``There's not an area in this game that he does not excel in, and there's not a possession that goes by that he doesn't want to get better.''


Brown almost seems envious when he speaks of Wade. Envious because he only gets to coach the 6-4 guard for 35 days, while Stan Van Gundy will be entering his second year with him.

That's because Wade has been somewhat of a coach's pet. With his combination of skills, professionalism and humility, it's hard not to look like one.

''For his age, it just amazes me how professional he is and how dedicated he is and how much he understands the game,'' U.S. assistant coach Gregg Popovich said. ``He really knows how to play the game, and he's going to give you everything that he has every drill, every scrimmage. He's very attentive, and he's the kind of guy that anybody would love to have on their basketball team. That's how he comes across.''

North Carolina coach Roy Williams, another U.S. assistant, is used to teaching the game, and he says Wade's willingness to learn is fast-tracking his development.

''He made a mistake the other day in practice and coach Brown said something to him,'' Williams said. ``The next three times he had that same opportunity to make that same mistake, he never made it again.''


Wade has no choice but to be the playmaker for the U.S. team, which makes his adjustment to the position impressive. He did start at point guard for the Heat, but he was still asked to score and played his best basketball when he switched to shooting guard.

Given the U.S. team's lack of a true point guard, teammates have nothing but positive things to say about Wade's transition.

''He's been one of the more impressive people here with his ability to handle the ball,'' U.S. team co-captain Tim Duncan said. ``He's playing a lot of point guard for us, which is impressive in that respect. I thought he was more of a wing guy. But he's handling the ball very well, making the right passes, a very smart player. He's very young, and you see that the upside is incredible.''

''He's a true point guard, and he's explosive,'' LeBron James said. ``It's hard to guard point guards in this league, and as explosive as he is, that's going to help him a lot.''

Brown is known to be particularly hard on his point guards. But so far, he doesn't have a harsh word regarding Wade at that position.

''He's going to start out being a point guard,'' Brown said. ``Miami might change, but in order for our team to be successful, I think we need Allen [Iverson] in the role that he's accustomed to playing [shooting guard] because nobody does it better, and Stephon [Marbury] and Dwyane and LeBron are going to have to take that [point guard] responsibility.

``But Dwyane is phenomenal.''

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