|Wade: It's 'strictly all about winning right now'|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 25 September 2008 12:14|
He wants it known that his hope is to spend the rest of his career with the Miami Heat, despite incessant speculation that he'll opt out of his contract in two years. He wants privacy when it comes to the sensitive subject of his ongoing divorce, which he won't discuss in specifics. He wants vindication for a restaurant deal that went bad and got worse when he was sued for $25 million, something he says smeared his name.
But on the court this season, he insists none of that will cloud his thinking.
``It's strictly all about winning right now,'' the 2006 NBA finals MVP and newly minted Olympic gold medalist told The Associated Press to advance Saturday's start of training camp. ``My goal this year is to make sure this team becomes a team. I felt the last two years we kind of slipped away from that, so I'll make sure this team builds its camaraderie back and make sure we're a lot better than last year.
``As long as we win, I will be happy.''
He wasn't happy often last season.
The Heat have championship reminders scattered about their arena, like photos and carpeting bearing the insignia of the trophy. But the fall was precipitous; Miami was swept from the playoffs in 2007 and was the NBA's worst team last season, going 15-67. Wade wasn't healthy in either season, the locker room was miserable and losing took a major toll on the franchise.
It's prompted suggestions that Wade will leave Miami in two seasons.
On this point, he's very clear: He's not clamoring to be anywhere else.
``This is where I want to be,'' said Wade, who can escape his contract after the 2009-10 season. ``I would love to retire in a Heat uniform. I'm not saying that for fans. I'm saying it because it's the truth. I just want to win. And if we build a winning team, it'll be easy.
``The Heat want to win. They won't want me to sign back if I can't help them win games. So for the next two years, a lot is going to get said. But in my heart, I want to be in a Miami Heat uniform. I'm very positive that that's going to happen.''
Wade is also positive Miami will turn things around. He was Team USA's leading scorer in Beijing, often saying he was playing with anger. He'll bring that feeling into the NBA season - anger that his team has been written off as a one-year wonder.
Off the court, he refuses to let talk about his personal life, which has been blog fodder for months, deflate him.
``I keep my personal life my personal life,'' Wade said. ``You try to keep it as private as you can. When things leak out, it's not always the truth. Some is. All you can do is continue being who you are. A lot of things have come out about me, and people are going to think what they want to think. But at the end of the day, no one knows what's happened in my life to get to the point where me and my wife, our family, not being together.''
Wade and Siohvaughn Funches were grade-school sweethearts and married before he entered the NBA. They had two children, and court records show the divorce process began late last year, roughly around the time the season began. He has not divulged any details of the breakup.
``When the time comes, I will make one statement and that's it,'' Wade said. ``Like anyone else, I want my privacy respected.''
He's also dealing with courts on another matter, a failed restaurant deal. Wade agreed to have his name and likeness used at three restaurants in South Florida and says he never invested any money in the businesses, yet when they failed - even though he tried to fulfill his end of the deal by making appearances - he was sued by the people who approached him about the project for $25 million. Wade is countersuing.
``Let people say what they want to say about me,'' Wade said. ``I hear it. I get mad about it. But it doesn't get me down. It adds fuel to the fire.''
Even with all that happening, there was good off-the-court news this summer for Wade, who re-signed an endorsement deal with T-Mobile and filmed six commercials since returning home with Olympic gold. His newest line of Converse footwear is on the way as well, and Wade will wear it during the preseason.
``He's done 30 commercials now,'' his sister, Tragil Wade, beamed when the sixth and final shoot was done Wednesday afternoon. ``Can you believe it?''
Indeed, Wade Inc. is bigger than ever.
Funny how Olympic gold can help out.
``The Olympic summer was a blessing,'' Wade said.
Wade worked to get ready for Beijing, and at times during the Olympics, looked like the player who led Miami to the 2006 title. He had no pain in his knee or shoulder, was strong on both ends of the court, and shone brightly even surrounded by stars like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwight Howard.
He doesn't have that kind of talent around him in Miami.
But there's more than enough for the Heat to reach the playoffs, he said.
more talent. They have more continuity. I can think of 15 games we could have won at the end, but we didn't know how as a team. Little things, we weren't doing them. From one year to the next, we didn't get any better as a team. That was the problem.''
This year's Heat will be younger, with rookies Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers expected to get immediate playing time, if not starting roles.
Udonis Haslem was hurt last year; he has a sprained foot that may sideline him for the early part of camp, but it's not serious and he'll be ready long before the season begins. Shawn Marion had back issues last season; he's now good to go. James Jones was brought in to be the shooter last year's team lacked.
``I think we have enough,'' Wade said. ``I think it's about us. That's why this training camp is so big for us as a team, making sure we all get on the same page, coming out of the blocks early and getting our confidence going and earning our respect. I told them the other day, we were 15-67 last year. We can't expect any calls, any respect. We've got to go out and earn it, earn it again.''
He pauses for a second, collecting his thoughts.
``I can't wait to get this season started,'' he said.