MIAMI — They’ve been teammates for only a week, and Dwyane Wade is already standing up for LeBron James.
Wade defended the NBA’s two-time reigning MVP on Thursday, telling The Associated Press that James “didn’t quit” on Cleveland during the playoffs. That was the accusation made by Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert last week, not long after James went on television to reveal he was leaving Cleveland for Miami.
“He’s not a quitter,” Wade said. “He didn’t quit.”
In an interview with The AP on July 8, Gilbert not only levied the quitting charge, but said James got “a free pass” for too long. The NBA fined Gilbert $100,000 earlier this week for some of his comments, with commissioner David Stern saying they were too extreme for the league’s liking.
Wade said he watched every game in Cleveland’s second-round series against Boston, the team that eliminated the Heat in the opening round of the postseason. The Celtics used a similar defensive scheme against James as they did against Wade to open the playoffs, throwing a slew of challenges in the way of both.
“LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, guys like that understand what Boston’s defense was about,” Wade said. “Their defense was built on not letting one player beat them. You either settle for the outside shot or you pass to your teammates. LeBron had one bad game in the playoffs. Other than that, he did what he could do with the defense all watching him.”
The Cavs lost to the Celtics in six games, but Wade pointed out that in the series finale, James finished with 27 points, 19 rebounds and 10 assists.
Nonetheless, Gilbert told The AP, “watch the tape. The Boston series was unlike anything in the history of sports for a superstar.”
The Cavaliers were beaten by 32 points in Game 5, a stunning loss at home. During the game, James appeared distracted and disinterested, often glaring at Cleveland’s coaches as the Cavs tried to foul to get back into the game in the second half. James also made some puzzling postgame comments, saying he had “spoiled” people with his play over seven seasons.