The other day, I gave Dwayne Wade credit for not hurting anyone in a while, hoping, admiringly, that he had finally turned a new leaf. Of course, he injured someone in the next game, and not just any someone. He took out Paul George, Indiana's key player, for at least the key part of the second game between the Pacers and the Heat, and likely more.
Was it intentional? Given Wade's history, one would think that that question would at least be raised. In fact, it was raised on twitter, but so far as I can see, nowhere else. Press coverage of Wade's various hits on players around the league have always been quite surreal. In play after play, where an opponent was hit, and even injured, Wade's body has gone through wild contortions that somehow led to Rondo being leg-swept and slammed to the floor, Kobe being bashed in the nose, Rondo being raked across the eyes (no injury that time), Collison being slammed to the floor, Stephenson being elbow-slammed in the head and - most improbably of all - Sessions being kicked in the groin. Yet in each case, or almost every case, the play is almost always described in the media as involving 'inadvertent' or 'accidental' contact, and no attempt has been made to account for Wade's bodily contortions during the play. One feels, observing such media coverage, that one must be living in some alternate reality. How does this one man manage to lay savage 'accidental' hits on so many people, and in such bizarre ways?
Viewed in the context of Wade's history, the hit on Paul George looks all too familiar. The play starts much like the Rondo takedown, with Wade exposing the ball while dribbling and having it stripped away. As both players lunge for the loose ball, Paul George having the inside track, Wade grabs George, causing him to fall down, also causing George to lose control over the ball. George falls straight down, barely (if at all) across Wade's path, and yet instead of leaping after the ball, which would take Wade downcourt, and past George, Wade leaps weirdly to the left, across George's body, slamming his left knee into the back of George's head, and then whacking George's head again with his right ankle. Truly, Wade looked like Bobby Orr scoring The Goal as he leapt over George's body, instead of Orr's hockey net. Once on the floor himself, Wade begins to clutch the knee which hit George, as if in pain. To my non-medically-trained eyes, Wade's knee-clutching looks like play-acting. George's prostration looks very real.
Was it intentional, by Wade? Well, I don't know if ANY of Wade's hits on various players have been intentional. I'm not in his mind. But I think it's pretty ludicrous that legions of journalists and bloggers act as though they can't see how bizarre Wade's antics are in these moments. Again and again we've seen Wade contort wildly in mid-action, so much so that it looks almost like clowning behavior, except that Wade seems to be the one suppressing a grin, and someone else ends up being hurt. Imagine two clowns at a circus, performing an act where they trip each other up repeatedly, while pretending to be completely innocent about it. That's the kind of behavior that I would say Wade exhibits, only the other guy isn't in on the joke. Wade acts like he's just getting tangled up with someone, but even at full speed you can see that it looks weird, and then when you watch it in slow motion, you see that it looks more than just weird. Why the bizarre leg-sweep (against Rondo)? Why the kick in the groin in the middle of some off-balance hopping (Sessions). How does Wade leaping past Stephenson in transition turn into an elbow to Stephenson's head?
We could attribute all this to some kind of strange uncoordination, I suppose, though one wouldn't expect that in a top athlete, but the Sessions groin kick really gave Wade's game away. It was so heinous that even Lebron, after the play is over, acts like he can't believe what he just saw in this play. Wade did get a one-game suspension for that one, and the kick was described as 'seemingly intentional', yet no one seemed to suggest that this blatantly intentional kick put Wade's other hits in a decidedly different light!
The best you can say about what Wade did to George, in my opinion, is that it was the basketball equivalent
of sliding into second base in baseball with your cleats up. At best, it was highly reckless. I'd say, though, that it looks more like yet another rap sheet moment for Le Thug. The league needs to suspend Wade. Bird should speak up about it to protect his player. The silence around Wade's injury-dealing ways needs to stop. It's dangerous, and it wrecks competition, and it ushers the league towards a path of increasing violence. It also makes a mockery of the sport of basketball. Yes, the game can be rough. It's hardly a non-contact sport. But there has to be a meaningful line between tough basketball and dirty basketball, and I'd say Wade has been making a living on the wrong side of that line.