Dwyane Wade's competitive fire still burns as bright as ever, even in the twilight of his future Hall of Fame career and his second stint with the Miami Heat.
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That should be obvious with the way the Heat veteran has battled off the bench against the Philadelphia 76ers in their first-round Eastern Conference playoff series. Just ask Sixers forward Justin Anderson, who saw it up close and personal in Game 3. And there is no question it will be on display again in Game 5 back at the Wells Fargo center.
That competitive fire, however, does not change the fact that Wade's respect for the Sixers, and rookie point guard Ben Simmons in particular, is robust. In fact, Wade got a sneak peak at Simmons, when the 6-foot-10 dynamo was watching and learning from his mentor, LeBron James, who also happens to be Wade's best friend. Keith Pompey of Phillynews.com provides some context:
Wade had a feeling that the 76ers rookie point guard would be special back when Simmons was a high schooler watching Wade and LeBron James, Simmons' mentor, work out. Now, Simmons is the favorite to win the NBA rookie of the year award and is a budding superstar.
"You could see the way he looked at guys like ourselves and how we worked. He was taking notes, mental notes," said Wade, whose Heat host the Sixers Saturday in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series at AmericanAirlines Arena. The Sixers hold a 2-1 advantage in the best-of-seven series.
"To see him a few years later," Wade added, "and see where he is in his game and the effect on a state and a city to play the game of basketball on such a high level, it's impressive."
Simmons has two double-doubles in his three playoff games. He had 19 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists and four steals in Thursday's 128-108 Game 3 victory. The Australian native has 60 points, 30 rebounds and 29 assists this postseason. He and Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson are the only players in NBA history to have at least 60 points, 25 rebounds and 25 assists after their first three playoff games.