NBA Finals 2013: Dwyane Wade, Manu Ginobili and the tenor of decline


The explosive shooting guards from the Heat and Spurs are imploding before our eyes. Father Time doesn't lose.

There are still some nights when Dwyane Wade is a totally unfair accomplice to LeBron James. From 18 feet and in, Wade has any number of parlor tricks to get buckets for himself and his teammates. A few remain on regular display, like the long half-hook in the lane he takes on broken plays or the wrap-around pass with more misdirection than a Roy Halladay sinker.

But what's most striking about Dwyane Wade in his dusk is that his approach has not changed. He continues to play like he is a star on the verge of explosion, like every possession requires his expert touch. This once was true. Now, nights like Sunday happen: Wade led the Miami starting five in usage rate (27 percent) and finished last in efficiency (84 offensive rating).

Manu Ginobili was once the No. 3 shooting guard in the entire NBA, despite coming off the bench. That's how good he was. He could play 27 minutes a night and still be better than everyone at his position but Wade and Kobe Bryant. He could, and did, make All-Star rosters and the All-NBA team from the bench. How? Because when he hit the floor, he was the Spurs. He did everything. He did everything well. He did everything well at full tilt. When he hit the floor, the opponent knew he was going to take over and the opponent could still do nothing to stop him.

And Manu is still doing everything and doing everything at full tilt. But he is not doing it well every night, or some nights. Now, nights like Sunday happen: he played 17 minutes and had as many turnovers as made field goals and assists combined.

There are lessons to be learned from the single ancient who remains a star in this series, Tim Duncan. Big Fundamental has bad nights, too, just like Wade and Ginobili. Sunday happened to be one of those nights: he shot a hideous 3-of-13 and didn't handle Chris Bosh all too well.

But these games are rare for Duncan, because he has relearned how to play at this age. He has conceded battles to Father Time in the interest of winning the war. No longer can Big Fun carry San Antonio on his back with something absurd like 40-15 (something he has done four times in the playoffs in his career) or even a 30-point night (of which he has 35 in the playoffs, none since 2008). Duncan has conceded that that phase of his career has passed. He is content to offer up 15-20 points, double-digit rebounds, sound defense and some smart passes. He is content to be a star and not a superstar every time he hits the floor. He has conceded that what he once was is not who he is, that he is redefined and still valuable, still worthy of his name.

Manu and Wade need to learn that and adjust their games. Perhaps not during this series, but going forward. Ginobili is a free agent, and San Antonio should be terrified of committing to him. His game is aging more like Allen Iverson than Ray Allen. Wade is locked up for at least one more year and it would serve Miami well for the offense to be adjusted to decrease Wade's load going forward, perhaps to the benefit of Bosh or Mario Chalmers. (LeBron James already does so much on both ends. And yes, Mario Chalmers.) It's worth noting that Wade was on the pine during the entirety of Miami's run in Game 2: he exited a 64-62 game and returned with the Heat leading by 24.

Manu and Wade are fighting the war against Father Time every time they hit the floor. Sunday, Father Time beat their asses.

Manu and Wade are fighting the war against Father Time every time they hit the floor. Sunday, Father Time beat their asses. Is that what they want to experience for the rest of their NBA careers?

Or, do they want to find a way, as Duncan has, to fight back by throttling down and tweaking their styles to fit their athletic realities? It's clear which path will lead to prolonged success, and it's not the one they are on now.

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