MIAMI — As the Heat fell behind early against the Milwaukee Bucks, the Miami fans were getting eager to see the man of the night.
Dwayne Wade was back with the Heat on Friday night, coming off the bench for Miami.
As the Heat fell behind 9-0, the crowd chanted, “We want Wade!”
Wade took the court midway through the first quarter as the fans gave him a standing ovation. He immediately grabbed a defensive rebound and threw a lob pass to Hassan Whiteside, who was able to slam home a dunk.
Wade is Miami’s all-time leader in points, games, assists and steals. He was drafted in the first round by Miami in 2003, but left for Chicago in 2016. Miami acquired him from Cleveland as part of the Cavaliers’ deadline-day makeover.
His return seemed to put everybody with the franchise in a good mood Friday, from office workers to coach Erik Spolestra.
“I definitely feel it’s going to be a great environment,” Wade said before the game.
The lower bowl was full before tip-off, an uncommon sight for a typical Heat regular season game, as they awaited to see their superstar come off the bench.
But no one really saw this coming, not even Spolestra.
Prior to Thursday’s practice, Spoelstra received updates on possible trades in Pat Riley’s office. Riley informed him there was a possibility to acquire Luke Babbitt and also Wade.
Spoelstra was about to leave Riley’s office when the news sank in.
“What?” Spoelstra said. “Dwyane who?”
Riley explained to Spoelstra about the player movement in the league and a Wade deal could potentially happen.
“We’ll let you know by the end of practice,” Riley said.
The coach said, “My only response was, ‘Let’s go, let’s do it.’ But it was probably not something any of us foresaw two weeks ago. Crazy things happen in this league so it just absolutely perfect timing for both parties and it was actually surreal of how quickly it came about.”
Wade could hardly wait.
“I’m excited for a lot of different reasons, but definitely the fan base that I grew up with and grew up with me, and just to be back in the environment,” he said. “I’m excited for my teammates as well. When you go through a long season, this team is on a five-game losing streak, sometimes it’s a lull, and to kind of get a jolt of energy like tonight will be in the arena, the atmosphere will be great. I think it’s going to be great for everybody as we go down the stretch of the season. I’m just excited to put on that jersey again and get out there and try not to be too bad.”
Wade was embraced by his teammates, many of whom he played with in his last season in Miami two years ago, which should help him make a smooth transition to a team sitting at 29-26 looking to improve its playoff standing.
“I feel like I know these guys,” Wade said. “I feel like I’m a part of this team already. When we played them, just the love that everyone always showed me before and after games, coming back to Miami in the summer and seeing these guys around, spending time with them so that transition right there was pretty seamless for me coming in today.”
Wade snuck up on Josh Richardson in the training room and gave him a playful push.
“It was cool,” Richardson said. “It kind of felt like he never left.”