- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Dwyane Wade was the toast of the 24/7 news cycle going into the Heat-Pistons series, ready to be canonized, and now he is among us mortals again after being held to 7-for-25 shooting in Game 1.

This merely points to the limitations of the hot-air brigade, forever required to fill the airwaves with absolutes, hard-fast opinions and superlatives on elements of the day that need time to evolve.

Wade certainly was playing at an otherworldly level in the first two rounds of the playoffs. Yet he remains a second-year player who hardly has seen all the various defenses structured to stymie the gifted ones of the game.

The frustration of Wade escalated as the Pistons imposed their length on him in Game 1. The Pistons seemingly lead the NBA in long arms, what with the long limbs of Rasheed Wallace, Ben Wallace and Tayshaun Prince planted in the vicinity of the basket.

Their sense of defensive purpose is different from what Wade saw against the Nets and then the Wizards. He was free to go wherever he wanted against both opponents, and not even the three-defender deployment of the Wizards could slow Wade, so good was his comfort level by then.

Not surprisingly, in our haste to anoint the new flavor of the moment, Wade was elevated beyond his level of achievement. Two playoff series — however impressive — do not constitute the beginning of a legend.

Wade is hardly the most egregious example.

The heavy breathers of Chicago dropped Michael Jordan’s name in connection to Ben Gordon after Game1 of the Bulls-Wizards series, which was a Grand Canyon-like leap for a first-year player who barely measures 6 feet. Gordon was held scoreless in Game 6, as if to confirm the point.

Odes were written anew in honor of Tracy McGrady after the Rockets claimed the first two games of the series with the Mavericks in Dallas.

This annual rite of spring — of McGrady finally punching through the first round of the playoffs — was shown to be premature again after the Mavericks rallied to win the series in seven games.

One of the tests of the playoffs is to see how players respond to the various challenges. The best of the best meet nearly all the challenges over a significant period of time.

Wade has not done that, and in Game 1, he looked both flustered and out of it near the end.

He compounded it with 20-footers down the stretch that lacked conviction. He could not hit an outside shot all night. It was doubtful he was going to salvage his shooting eye with the game hanging in the balance. Yet shoot he did. And miss. And the Heat dropped a highly winnable game.

They were the ones who overcame a double-digit deficit in the second half. They were the ones playing at home. They were the ones with momentum. And yet they closed with a whimper and landed with a thud.

The Heat scored only one point in the final 5:10 after tying the game at 80. This is a Heat team touting, up to then, one of the two most dominant guards in the playoffs in Wade and the immovable presence of Shaquille O’Neal, beat up though he is.

There is something about the Pistons that allows them to fly beneath the national radar of NBA observers. Perhaps it is their lack of flair, lack of a lead player and devotion to defense.

Whatever it is, the Pistons remain mostly out of the national eye, all too easily forgotten around the pizzazz of Steve Nash and the Suns, the cool efficiency of Tim Duncan and the Spurs, the pursuit of O’Neal to needle Jerry Buss both on and off the court and the whirlwind appeal of Wade.

The beauty-challenged Pistons are the accidental NBA champions of 2004, just no fun and unable to meet the definition of buzz in the 24/7 news environment.

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