Mike Krzyzewski wanted Dwyane Wade on the U.S. team, just in case something ever happened to Kobe Bryant or LeBron James.
With James out Friday night, Wade proved he is definitely back.
Wade stepped into the starting lineup and scored 20 points in his first action in more than four months, and the United States beat Canada 120-65 in the opener of its exhibition schedule.
“D-Wade is a warrior to anybody who knows him. He’s been rehabbing and he’s been working out probably more than anybody, just trying to get back in shape,” point guard Chris Paul said. “That’s D-Wade. We see it every day in practice and you saw it tonight, that he’s back. When he’s aggressive like that, we’re a dangerous team.”
James, the NBA’s leading scorer, missed the game because of a mildly sprained right ankle, but the Americans have plenty of offense without him. Carmelo Anthony and Michael Redd also finished with 20 points, and Bryant added 15.
The Americans made 16 of their first 20 shots and ended at 65.7 percent (44-of-67), getting plenty of layups and dunks at a sold out Thomas & Mack Center in their lone game on home soil before completing their Olympic preparations in China.
Canadian coach Leo Rautins called the Americans “obviously the most talented team, without a question, in the world.”
Wade was the sixth man on the Americans’ bronze medal team in the 2006 world championships, but sat out last summer following knee surgery. His left knee continued to bother him, so the Miami Heat shut down their star for the season early in March.
He resumed working out in Chicago in time to prove to USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo that he was healthy enough to be picked for the team headed to Beijing. Krzyzewski said Wade’s strong play has been the most pleasant surprise of practice this week, and Wade said he feels healthier than he did two years ago, when he was bothered by wrist and knee pain after leading Miami to the NBA title.
Wade had no doubt he would play well in his first game since March 8.
“I put in the work,” he said. “I’ve been in the gym since May.”
Wade made a 3-pointer in the opening minutes and had no trouble driving to the basket, hitting his first five shots. He threw down a dunk to put the Americans over the century mark with 7:25 remaining in the game, and finished 7-of-10.
“He’s healthy,” said Bryant, adding that he sometimes shows up in the gym for a morning workout to find Wade already there. “That’s the most important thing for Dwyane is that he’s healthy.”
Canada has played games already this summer, failing to reach the Olympics through a qualifying tournament in Greece earlier this month, and was sharp early. The Canadians were able to penetrate into the paint and set up their 3-point shooters, going 5-of-8 from behind the arc in the first quarter and trailing just 30-24.
The Americans tightened the defense in the second, forcing 10 turnovers and limiting the Canadians to 3-for-11 shooting and pulling away for a 61-38 lead by halftime.
“You could see it unravel very quickly,” Rautins said. “One or two plays here or there, a couple of 3s, a dunk and all of a sudden the game has changed dramatically. Just tells how quick and how talented they are. You can’t make any mistakes at all.”
Redd was 6-of-8, all on 3-pointers. Every U.S. player scored except Kidd, who didn’t attempt a shot.
“After the first 10 minutes, we just seemed — that’s the first game we’ve played — we just seemed like we were in sync,” Krzyzewski said. “We were passing the ball more and we were playing much better defense the last three quarters.”
Jermaine Anderson led Canada with 18 points. Rowan Barrett and Carl English each added 11.
Krzyzewski sent Paul and Deron Williams, expected to battle for the No. 2 point guard spot behind Jason Kidd, into the game together midway through the first quarter. Paul quickly found Anthony with an alley-oop pass for a dunk. The two point guards scored off turnovers seconds apart late in the second quarter, increasing the U.S. lead to 60-35.
Williams scored 14 points and Paul added 11 points and eight assists.
The lead ballooned into the 40s when Kidd threw a length of the court pass to Anthony, who passed it back to Chris Bosh streaking in for a dunk. Wade followed with his breakaway slam, making it 101-58.
James was hurt during a scrimmage on Tuesday. Though his ankle is feeling better, the U.S. staff preferred to rest him to avoid further swelling before the long plane flight to China this weekend.
The Americans continue their preparations in China, playing two games in Macau and two more in Shanghai before arriving in Beijing. They face the host Chinese in their opener on Aug. 10.
Credit: Associated Press