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Wade, James have their work cut out

Wade, James have their work cut out

They have started slowly, had to deal with missing stars and missing pieces.
The result has been something far less than ABC anticipated when it decided to move away from its Shaquille O'Neal-Kobe Bryant Christmas storyline and instead feature the Heat at Cleveland as Tuesday's holiday fare.
What the network finds itself with are two losing teams that hardly resemble the squads that took the past two Eastern Conference championships.
While the Cavaliers' LeBron James and Heat's Dwyane Wade will be the focus, their earlier absences have their teams playing catch-up.
The Heat opened 1-6 in Wade's absence. Cleveland went 0-5 during the recent stretch with James sidelined with a sprained left index finger.
A battle of contenders? More like lottery pretenders, at least for now.
The Heat went into Saturday night's home game against the Jazz having lost 9 of 12, just as Cleveland has lost 9 of 12 going into Sunday night's game against Golden State.
Holiday blues
That has Wade feeling James' holiday blues.
"He's got his struggles going on; I've got struggles over here a little worse than over there," Wade said. "We're just both trying to figure it out."
Although sneaker and soft-drink rivals, Wade and James have made a practice of getting together before games in Cleveland, taking in the occasional movie. But with the Heat planning an evening flight on Christmas Eve, the two likely won't be able to wallow in each other's sorrows before the 2:30 p.m. Tuesday tip-off.
"We haven't spoken much about the struggles," Wade said. "I never thought I'd be under .500 for this. I'm sure neither did he.
"But you can't go in with that mentality. You've got to go in with the mentality to win a game on Christmas, no matter what the record is."
When the two do speak, they'll find plenty in common.
Both teams have struggled defensively, especially at crucial junctures of games. That has forced James and Wade to take on the challenge as perimeter defensive stoppers, as James did in last week's victory against Bryant and the Lakers.
Both players have gotten little support from secondary perimeter options, with the Cavaliers' Larry Hughes and the Heat's Ricky Davis often erratic, frequently inefficient, both reduced to bench duty. Both have had to try to make it work with immobile big men, with the Cavaliers' Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Heat's O'Neal practically dinosaurs in today's more fluid NBA.
Just as the Heat last season heard murmurs of, "How did that team win a championship?" so, too, are the Cavaliers dealing with questions of their legitimacy as last season's Eastern Conference champions.
For now, the heavy lifting continues. James and Wade not only are ranked at the top of the league in scoring, but also in turnovers.
Their ball. Their burden.
Wade said even without speaking with James he appreciates what his counterpart is enduring.
"You've got to keep fighting, you've got to keep playing and keep performing," Wade said. "You do that and then the guys are going to eventually follow."


Updated : 2021-05-18 15:48 GMT+08:00