This had been scheduled as a reunion trip from the moment LeBron James moved on to the Los Angeles Lakers and Dwyane Wade decided to return to the Miami Heat for his “One Last Dance” 16th and final NBA season.
But now even a best friend is reduced to secondary priority.
Because daddy is coming home.
It has been nearly three weeks since Wade last saw his daughter, after missing seven games on paternity leave. With Friday’s flight from Phoenix, it will mean a homecoming on the road.
“It’s jump off the plane, run right home,” Wade said of bonding time renewed with wife Gabrielle Union and daughter Kaavia James Union Wade in Los Angeles, where they have maintained a secondary resident for years. “I’ll definitely be excited when those wheels hit the ground.”
With his daughter delivered through surrogate in California, this four-day run in Los Angeles against the Lakers and Clippers set up as the perfect extended visit before Kaavia takes flight for the first time to South Florida around Christmas.
“I’ve been looking forward to it,” Wade said ahead of Friday’s game against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. “Of course, to me, it was tough for me to leave, after being gone for two weeks. I didn’t want to leave my daughter because I know I wasn’t going to see her for a while.”
Having missed two weeks amid this uneven start for the Heat, Wade said he appreciates the life-work balance required, especially with the Heat without center Hassan Whiteside, who is awaiting the birth of his first born.
“I’m not too far away from the team hotel,” he said, “so hopefully I can make it back in time. But I definitely am going to enjoy the special times with my family.”
Two weeks on, weeks off certainly is not Wade’s preferred version of fatherhood.
“We’ve done everything — FaceTime, video. It was definitely more for me,” he said of these intervening days. “But she knows my voice. You could tell in the eyes. I definitely made sure when I was there that I talked to her a lot, let her hear my voice.
“So when I do talk to her on FaceTime or I do send a video, you can tell with her eyes that she definitely knows my voice.”
The first break from family will be Saturday’s game against the Clippers. But the main course of the consecutive games at Staples Center will be Monday’s matchup against the Lakers and LeBron, after missing the first of the teams’ two meetings while on paternity leave.
Wade, 36, said he plans to savor that evening with his former Heat championship teammate.
“For me,” he said, “when Kobe [Bryant] retired, the last time I got to play against him in LA, I waited on his press conference, everything he had to do after the game. He was still in the locker room, spent time with him. Because I savored it.
“It will be the same thing with LeBron, because I’ll savor this. We both will. We both had some amazing moments versus each other, as competitors. But we obviously had some great moments as teammates.”
James plans to play on beyond this season. Wade doesn’t. And it’s not as if there is any realistic shot at a playoff meeting.
“We’re going to be friends forever,” Wade said, “but this is the last time we play basketball versus each other. So we’ll enjoy it and then we’ll savor it.”
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