This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
When Dwyane Wade spoke, the tone of his voice was so low you had to be very close to hear his mostly monosyllabic answers.
On Monday night, the star Miami Heat guard hastily dressed in the wake of a 104-97 loss to the Utah Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena. He just as hastily took a few questions, before slipping on a beanie and leaving the locker room.
It's safe to say Wade wasn't a happy camper.
He had reason to be angry. An annual All-Star, Wade was benched against the Jazz, not playing a single minute in the fourth quarter while Miami made a comeback from 20 points down before finally succumbing.
Wade scored 11 points, grabbed five rebounds and handed out four assists. But he was far from the impact player he normally is. And as the face of the Heat franchise for so long, his benching, a coaching decision, leaving him on the bench in crunch time will resonate as a controversial move by Erik Spoelstra.
"I just try and stay ready," Wade said. "I'm not the coach. He makes the decisions. I'm just a player."
Miami is 24-12 on the season, a few days removed from a blowout win over Sacramento. The Heat are still the team with the best record in the Eastern Conference, still the team with LeBron James and still a favorite to defend the NBA title they won back in June.
Yet, there appears to be a few chinks in the whole production. The Heat have average point guard play at best. Wade, still a great player, looks to have lost a step and some of his explosion. When James signed with Miami a few years ago, there was little doubt that Wade was one of the top five players in the league. Now, there's doubt as to whether he's even still among the top 10.
The Heat have few quality big men to rely on and are getting hammered nightly in the rebounding department. The Jazz simply beat them up inside, holding a 40-23 advantage on the boards. Miami has little back-to-the-basket play outside of James.
Speaking of which, the Heat are relying on James an awful lot, maybe too much. On Monday, he scored 32 points, but often found himself having to create plays for himself and others repeatedly in the second half. And he played 43 minutes, a grind of a workload over an entire season.
"I was just playing the game," James said. "I was out on the floor with the guys that were out there. We had low energy tonight and you can't play with low energy against a team like this with an amazing crowd."
Time will tell if the Heat have serious issues, or if they are simply on cruise control. For one night, though, they looked mortal. And that has to please the rest of the NBA.
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