The Brooklyn Nets defeated the Miami Heat 113-94 on Wednesday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to close out the regular season. Brooklyn’s record is 42-40 and they have made the playoffs for the first time since the 2014-2015 season. They are the #6 seed in the eastern conference and begin the playoffs on the road this Saturday at the Philadelphia 76ers.
Last night was also the final game in the legendary career of Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade. The three-time champion, eight-time all NBA, and thirteen-time all star is a sure fire first ballot Hall of Famer, and probably the third best shooting guard of all time. The arena was filled with emotion, tribute, respect, and all the things.
Here are some thoughts from last night.
D-Wade’s final game, maybe justifiably, overshadowed the night for Brooklyn. But we must give general manager Sean Marks, head coach Kenny Atkinson, their staffs, and most importantly the players props for a tremendous season. It wasn’t all roses for Brooklyn this year. During a brutal eight game losing streak that had the squad 10 games below .500 in early December and headed to the lottery, things were bleak. D’Angelo Russell wasn’t playing fourth quarters, Caris LeVert was injured, and questions about it ever working in Brooklyn were everywhere.
But this group, led by veterans Jared Dudley, Ed Davis and DeMarre Carroll, steadied the ship. D’Angelo Russell started to play like an all-star and #2 overall pick, Spencer Dinwiddie was in talks for sixth man of the year, and rookie Rodions Kurucs played like a lottery pick during stretches. The Nets won 19 of their next 24 games and vaulted themselves above .500 and into playoff contention.
Right before the all-star break Caris LeVert returned from injury, and as a team the Nets bunkered down and believed they could make the playoffs. They thought it earlier in the season, even in the wake of that rough stretch. You could say the Nets have been in playoff mode the last few weeks. Pulling out must win games and securing their seeding.
Now comes the fun part, and a level of basketball this group has never experienced. Ask any NBA player what the difference is between the regular season and the playoffs and the one word you will hear repeatedly is intensity. You play the same team over the course of a seven game series. There are no back to backs and often two or three days rest between games. That leads to stars playing more minutes and increased energy for physical play on the defensive end. Teams know each others plays and counters. Coaching and player adjustments are magnified in the playoffs.
But this is what it’s all about. Brooklyn has developed a core of very good young players. Marks and Atkinson want to build a sustainable “championship level program”. This is a huge step in that process.
Following the game, during his media availability, Atkinson talked about the Nets jump from one of the worst teams in the league to the playoffs.
The @BrooklynNets are headed to the playoffs! Following last night’s game head coach Kenny Atkinson on going from one of the worst teams in the league to the playoffs #NBA #NBATwitter pic.twitter.com/zzGmYOM6cd
— Jarod Hector (@jshector) April 11, 2019
Emotion, Brotherhood, and Respect
Wednesday night was all about Wade in many respects. Despite the loss, he finished his final NBA game with a triple double. 25 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. The sellout crowd at Barclays Center was in a lather hours before the 8:00 pm local tip. They were there to hopefully catch a glimpse of greatness, one last time. It was an emotional atmosphere the entire night. There is something about sports that even the most cynical, myself included, can’t deny. When we witness the end of an era, or storied career it elicits something deep inside of us. Maybe it reminds us of our own mortality. Maybe it brings us back to a time in our lives that was special. Whatever IT is, these moments are special and you have to consider yourself fortunate to have witnessed it in some way.
The famed “banana boat crew” was in he house at Barclays on Wednesday night. LeBron James, Chris Paul, and Carmelo Anthony were all in attendance to support their banana boat brother on his final night as an NBA player. Much can be debated and said about these men and it has. What is undeniable is the genuine love and respect they have for one another. In a competitive alpha male environment like the NBA, these men set a standard on how personal relationships can have a lasting impact on one’s life. ESPN’s Rachel Nichols summed it up best in a post on Instagram:
During Wade’s “One Last Dance” tour he’s exchanged jerseys with veterans, young guys, journeymen, and stars, players of all levels. He’s received unanimous respect. As a member of the NBA fraternity, and that’s not a large group, it means so much to have earned the respect of your peers and the players that came before you. Wade has earned that in spades. An excellent player on the floor, class act off the the floor, and a leader in the community and ambassador for this great game.
If you haven’t seen the latest Wade commercial. Check it out.
A lot of people have posted this already, but this is seriously one of the best commercials I’ve ever seen. @DwyaneWade has not only been a generational talent, but a genuine person who never sacrificed his ideals or integrity. #ForwardAlways
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) April 11, 2019
Dwyane Wade is a family man. He’s very close with his sisters and his mom, buying the latter a church. He is married to actress Gabrielle Union and they recently had a daughter, Kaavia James Union Wade, via surrogate. The Wade’s are also parents to three children from Dwyane’s previous marriage.
We have been privy to the comings and goings of the Wade family for years in part because of their celebrity status and the nature of the times we live in. We’ve also seen Dwyane’s oldest son, Zaire, essentially grow up before our eyes. Dwyane and his then girlfriend, who became his first wife, had Zaire while he was in college at Marquette University. A sobering reality for any twenty-something year old, let alone someone with pro basketball aspirations.
But Wade had a dream, and with the birth of Zaire, he knew the kind of father he wanted to be and family he wanted to raise and he set out and accomplished it. No doubt with many ups and downs, successes and failures along the way.
Following the game, Wade talked about the importance of family and what it means to him for his oldest son Zaire to experience this journey with him.
Emotional night @barclayscenter for @DwyaneWade #OneLastDance I asked him about family and the importance of his son Zaire being old enough to share this journey. Great stuff by DWade #NBA #NBATwitter pic.twitter.com/P5twFjtIOE
— Jarod Hector (@jshector) April 11, 2019