Cavaliers Are the NBA’s Best Team After Hawks Win and ‘Unwanted’ Dwyane Wade Is Why

Some Cleveland Cavaliers didn’t want Dwyane Wade on the team this season, when the veteran shooting guard and future Hall of Famer made the jump from the listless Bulls to join his old buddy LeBron James in Cleveland.

James revealed that snippet in an interview with The Athletic published Thursday evening. Richard Jefferson, a popular member of the Cavaliers’ roster, was traded to the Atlanta Hawks to make room for Wade. (Jefferson was subsequently waived by the Hawks and signed with the Denver Nuggets). That apparently upset certain members of the Cavaliers’ locker room, which rankled with James.

“I still know what he’s [Wade] capable of doing,” James told The Athletic. “Why wouldn’t you want another guy in the locker room that brings a championship mentality and a guy who can still play? So, of course, it bothered me, but (expletive) it. It is what it is.”

Not for the first time and almost certainly not the last, James appears to have been right. Wade dropped 19 points on Thursday night as the Cavaliers saw off the awful Hawks at Philips Arena. James scored 24 with 12 assists and six rebounds, while Kevin Love led the team with 25 points. Love added 16 rebounds as the Cavaliers took their eighth straight, the NBA’s longest current winning streak despite having trailed 67-58 toward the end of the first half.

Wade isn’t the same player James dovetailed so beautifully with in Miami, but he’s playing a vital role from the Cavaliers’ bench. He has started just three games out of 20 for 23.5 minutes per night and 10.8 points per game, which would both be career lows were they extrapolated over the whole season.

LeBron James, left, and Dwyane Wade. LeBron James, left, and Dwyane Wade of the Cleveland Cavaliers at Philips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia, November 30. Wade's play from the bench has been key to the Cavaliers' resurgence. Kevin C. Cox

It’s possible that some of the Cavaliers’ discomfort with Wade’s one-year deal has quietened since he moved to the Cavaliers’ second unit, after beginning the season as a starter. ESPN’s Bryan Windhorst reported “angst” in the locker room in October after Wade’s signing shifted J.R. Smith to the bench.

There’s nothing like winning to silence dissenting voices, though. Wade is key to the Cavaliers’ efforts as relief for James and that has Tyronn Lue’s team gaining on the Celtics in the Eastern Conference standings. For now, at least, all seems well in northeast Ohio.