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Dwyane Wade didn’t put up big numbers in his first game back with the Miami Heat on Friday night, a 91-85 victory over the visiting Milwaukee Bucks.
His stat line — three points, two rebounds, two assists, two blocked shots and two steals in 22 minutes off the bench — weren’t his biggest contribution.
He entered the game to a rousing standing ovation, with Miami trailing, 9-0, midway through the first quarter and chants of “We want Wade!”
That came simply in his presence, in a Heat uniform,
Just ask Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.
Spoelstra said Wade’s return and Friday night’s victory were what the Heat “needed for the moment.”
“Obviously, it was special to have Dwyane back in uniform, back on our side in front of the home fans,” Spoelstra told reporters after the win, which snapped Miami’s five-game losing streak. “It felt exactly the way it should. It felt normal. It felt like home. It felt like family. It felt all the things you came to expect with Dwyane.”
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) February 10, 2018
In turn, Wade felt the energy of the crowd.
“Great energy in the building,” Wade said. “When I went out to warm up, it was definitely a playoff atmosphere.
“The crowd was amazing. I missed this crowd.”
Wade, who was sent back to Miami by the Cavaliers in exchange for a heavily protected second-round draft choice before the NBA trade deadline Thursday, was selected by the Heat in the first round of the 2003 draft.
Heat put @DwyaneWade jerseys on sale at 5pm yesterday. Received orders from more than 100 countries in 15 hours. Team merchandise sales are up 8000% from the previous two days. pic.twitter.com/nD3Gt0v2Ai
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) February 9, 2018
He is Miami’s all-time leader in points, games played, assists and steals. Wade signed with the Chicago Bulls as a free agent in 2016, then negotiated a buyout and signed with the Cavaliers as a free agent for the NBA minimum.
“I was telling Spo after the game that I actually felt normal,” Wade said. “He said he felt a little weird seeing me on the bench to start the game, but I actually felt normal. Once the game starts, it becomes a game and you get into it.”
Miami center Hassan Whiteside, who had 12 points and 16 boards in the victory, certainly noticed the difference.
“It felt like a playoff game,” he said Whiteside. “The fans were in an uproar. It felt like a playoff game, and Miami was just rocking. It hadn’t felt like that in a while here.”