By TIM REYNOLDS
MIAMI — Dwyane Wade still gets angry. Just not as often.
After a year like he had, that says something. It was eventful, often for unpleasant reasons such as his Miami Heat falling from the NBA mountaintop, a superstar friend deciding to leave the locker room they shared and a team rebuilding project.
For him, 2014 was like none other.
“It was just a different year,” Wade told The Associated Press. “Every year you go into a new one, you do the New Year’s Eve resolutions and you sit there and think ‘Yeah, this going to be the year.’ What I like to see from myself is how I respond to the moments where it’s not the highs. I know how I respond to the highs. But how do I respond in moments of truth?”
He’s finding out.
The Heat brought a losing record to 2015, barely hanging on to the No. 8 spot in a weak Eastern Conference. LeBron James is wearing a Cleveland uniform now. Miami lost 12 games in December alone, and that’s after Wade lost millions in an effort to keep the team’s championship core together last summer.
How much he lost, only time will tell. He was guaranteed $41 million from the Heat through 2015-16 before opting out; his current deal assures $31 million over that span. The 32-year-old Wade could be a free agent again this summer, since next season’s contract is at his option.
“I’ll be all right,” Wade said with a shrug.
“It cost me a lot. But it wasn’t The Decision that cost me,” the three-time champion said of his opt-out move, and James’ choice to leave for Cleveland. “It was my decision. I opted out for the better of the team, not for any individual. I opted out for the better of the team and it cost me some money. I’m not concerned about it. Not overly concerned, anyway.”
This is when he reveals that he’s happy, even with the Heat struggling.
He has coaching privileges in practice now. If he doesn’t like something, he can stop the play, correct and teach. He’s been encouraged to pull players aside and tell them what he wants, since what he wants and what the Heat want are almost always in perfect alignment.
“He has that experience, that impact with his voice,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He’s been great in embracing that. Its the most leadership that’s required of him since he’s been here.”
Wade’s business deals keep growing and his marketability isn’t suffering. He got married again last year, tying the knot with actress Gabrielle Union after years of dating. He’s a de facto father of four now; three of his kids, plus raising a nephew.
And he can still play.
Wade entered Thursday sixth in the NBA in scoring this season, at 23.2 points per game. He’s shooting 51 percent. Among those who have taken at least 400 shots, only Anthony Davis and Nik Vucevic, big men who do most of their work at the rim, are shooting at a better clip.
“In my professional life, I got comfortable in a role and I thought maybe this is it, maybe this is how I end my career,” Wade said. “And then it changed and I’m showing myself that I can still do the things I want to do. And my family, starting over as well. It’s my second time getting married. Let’s see if I can do it right this time, do it better.”
In separate interviews, Wade and Union referred to the changes in his life the same way – as a rebirth.
“It’s a rebirth that came out of a reevaluation of life and priorities and needs and wants,” Union said. “And what’s emerged like a rising from the phoenix is something so dope, I couldn’t even imagine.”
Wade and Union spent most of the past two years remodeling their home, a process that took longer than either of them wanted or expected but they wound up pleased with the results. Wade sees the parallel with the Heat. A rebuilding project has started there, one he thinks will be worthwhile.
“I think I’m responding OK,” Wade said. “I think 2014 was a pretty good year. And I’m excited for what’s next.”