By Tim Reynolds
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
MIAMI _ Dwyane Wade is already thinking big about the Miami Heat’s fast-approaching season.
And missing the playoffs last season has only energized him.
Less than two weeks from the start of his 13th Heat training camp, Wade joined Jack Nicklaus and Chris Evert as enshrinees Wednesday at the 21st Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce Sports Hall of Champions induction ceremony. And while the night was about looking back and celebrating the past, Wade couldn’t help but sound excited what may loom this season.
“It could be special,” Wade said. “We have all the ingredients. We’ve just got to make sure we mix it right.”
The Heat missed the playoffs last season after injuries and illness ravaged the roster in their first year of the post-LeBron James era after four straight trips to the NBA Finals. For Wade, that means essentially six months between games going from the end of last season to the start of the coming year.
It didn’t mean six months off, however.
“I’m going into training camp (in regular season) form,” Wade said.
Evert couldn’t attend the event Wednesday. Wade and Nicklaus chatted on the red carpet, and the 11-time All-Star learned that Nicklaus is a Heat fan _ and his wife Barbara is a bigger one. Nicklaus told a story how he once called home during a trip to Brazil, his wife answered and asked him to hold because 6 seconds were left in a Heat game.
Nicklaus has been a season ticket-holder for Miami’s four pro teams _ the Dolphins, the Florida Panthers, the Marlins and the Heat _ for decades. He joked that when the Heat got Wade, he had to give up those seats because of the success he brought to the city.
“A Miami Heat ticket is simply too expensive for me anymore,” Nicklaus said, drawing laughs.
Nicklaus and Evert _ both winners of 18 Grand Slam events in their respective golf and tennis worlds _ have long been out of the active-competitor spotlight.
Wade acknowledged that it simultaneously felt odd and humbling sharing the moment with them.
“It is an honour,” Wade said. “When I got the call, obviously I jumped on it right away and said of course I would. This feels a little weird. I’m preparing for a season that’s starting real soon, but at the same time you’ve got to take it in stride and understand what it means for the city and the community. So I’m overwhelmed in appreciation.”
The Heat missed the playoffs for just the second time in Wade’s career last season. Only eight active players have more points than Wade, who will likely move into the NBA’s Top 50 all-time regular-season scorers early this season.
“Sometimes you don’t get a break and then you keep going with life, life keeps going,” Wade said. “So to get a break from basketball for a while _ not saying I wanted to be out of the playoffs, but once it was reality that we weren’t getting in _ you’ve got to say it wasn’t meant to be, there was a reason for this. And hopefully that reason shows its face this year.”
The addition of Wade, Nicklaus and Evert push the enrolment in the Sports Hall of Champions to 84. The first class was enshrined in 1990 and past inductees include Don Shula, Angelo Dundee, Bob Beamon, Muhammad Ali, Arthur Ashe, Emerson Fittipaldi, Joe DiMaggio, Dan Marino, Alonzo Mourning, Jerry Bailey, Greg Louganis, Jennifer Rodriguez, Zach Thomas and Jim Kelly.