Miami Heat shooting guard Dion Waiters, a veteran that has self-professedly patterned his game after Dwyane Wade, ended up taking his place in the team’s rotation — ultimately turning from what looked like a lost rebuilding season into a promising one.
Waiters high octane scoring ability along with the team’s reckless abandon to come out on top, have brought the Heat to the best record in the league since the start of the calendar year, now battling the Detroit Pistons for the last playoff spot.
Regardless of the success, Waiters knows what Wade has meant to South Beach throughout his 13-year run with the franchise, noting a legend like him is irreplaceable.
“You can’t replace no legend, considering what he did for the city of Miami. He did so much for this city, brought them three titles,” Waiters told Michael Lee of The Vertical. “I try to tell people all the time, I think that’s disrespect to D-Wade when people say I’m taking his place. I don’t say that. What he did for this city is unmatched. Hopefully, I can be here, however long I’m here for, the same way that he was here for 13, 14 years.”
Waiters gambled on himself this past offseason, opting out of an offer from the Oklahoma City Thunder to a chance with the Heat — one that didn’t pay immediate dividends as the slasher was sidelined for 20 games with a groin injury.
“I told people, even though I was coming off the playoffs, Western Conference finals, I wanted a better opportunity for me,” Waiters said. “And it wasn’t about the money at the time for me. It was just about finding that comfort, really finding that home to play my game and have fun doing it, most importantly.”
The Heat have gone 23-9 since his January 4 return to the lineup, including a 12-4 record when he scores 20 or more points. The Syracuse standout is averaging 16.1 points, 4.4 assists, and 3.4 rebounds per game this season.
“I’m a winner. When I was hurt and things like that, people were counting us out,” Waiters said. “Pat told me, ‘When you come back, you’re going to take off.’ And ever since then, we built chemistry, we built that trust and we just took off and it’s a testament in having faith and believing everything is going to be all right.”