Dwyane Wade: Long Lockout, Less Fans

BRADENTON, Fla. — Dwyane Wade thinks it’s “unrealistic” for the NBA to expect every team to be competitive every season, is bothered by the notion that player greed is fueling the lockout, and sounds less than optimistic that mediation will end the impasse.

And he suspects some owners are in no hurry to see a new labor deal because of lingering bitterness over what the Miami Heat did last summer.

In an interview Friday with The Associated Press, the All-Star Heat guard said he’s growing increasingly concerned that more games — maybe many more games — might be canceled before this lockout ends.

“The longer it goes on, the more fans we’re going to lose,” Wade said.

That may be the one statement on which both sides can agree.

On everything else, as commissioner David Stern said this week when he canceled the first two weeks of regular-season games, there’s a gulf between owners and players. The sides will try to get closer to a deal next week by meeting with a mediator. Stern has said that if progress isn’t made by Tuesday, more trouble may loom.

Wade said the NBA has done an “amazing” job in getting its message out to basketball fans during the lockout. Players, he said, have not wanted to take the same approach as the NBA on the battle of perception.

“We haven’t done a great job of complaining,” Wade said. “That’s what the NBA has done, they’ve done a great job of complaining. We haven’t done a great job of that so no one sees our side. They more so see the owners’ side.”

And that side is this: Without more competitive balance, the league can’t succeed.

“There’s a real willingness of the high-grossing teams to pitch in and put in some dollars,” Stern told NBA TV in an interview broadcast Thursday night. “And there’s a real desire on the low-grossing teams to have the money to make them competitive.”

Wade and Stern discussed that point during a sometimes-contentious meeting several top players attended in New York a couple weeks ago, and just as he did then, the star doesn’t agree with the commissioner.

“Let’s just take the owners and the NBA saying we want every team to be competitive,” Wade said. “We want every team to have the same chips to start with. You tell me that corporations and business around the world that every is equal one and I’ll show you a lie. You have some up here, you have some down here. That’s the game. We have some huge markets. We have some small markets.

“To me, it’s not about who has the most chips,” Wade added. “I think it’s about who manages their chips the right way. That’s why I think we have a management problem. Small markets have won championships. San Antonio is a very small market and they have four championships in the last 10 years or whatever the case may be. So I don’t know how you ever fix it unless you have realistic goals. It has to get a little more realistic and right now, it’s not.”

To be clear, Wade has not given up hope for the season. Far from it.

He was at the IMG Academies in Florida, about a four-hour drive from Miami, on Friday for five hours of testing in Gatorade’s new sports science lab, getting poked and prodded with hopes that researchers can find some new way to help him on the court. Wade is a Gatorade spokesman, and the facility at IMG is one of at least four Gatorade plans to open worldwide for new research.

That being said, he is realistic.

He knows the Heat galvanized both their fans and their detractors — including some NBA team owners — in July 2010, when Miami found a way to not only keep Wade but sign LeBron James and Chris Bosh, among others. Wade took a contract that was worth $17 million less than what the Heat would have been allowed to offer to make those deals happen.

Given that, Wade suspects there’s some out there that would be thrilled if the Heat were not back on the floor anytime soon.

“I’m not going to say it’s all about the Miami Heat, but it makes it a little easier to sit on your hands. I’m going to say that,” Wade said. “It makes it a little easier for others to sit on their hands because I know, I’m sure, teams that have an opportunity and feel like they can compete right now, they’re ready to go. If 20 other teams don’t feel they have that opportunity, they sit on their hands. So it affects the Miami Heat, obviously.”

Wade makes an estimated $25 million to $30 million annually in on- and off-court earnings. He knows why fans are upset that players and owners can’t find a solution when the nation’s economy is struggling and unemployment is soaring.

“Not at one point have we asked for more money,” Wade said. “I’ve heard people say ‘The players are being greedy.’ How are we being greedy? … People need to get in a room and understand what really needs to be done so everyone — not just the owners, not just the players — can continue to grow with the game. That’s where we’ve got to come to an agreement.”

Source: Associated Press