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Wade will play off bench in Heat return, says he's 'over-the-moon excited'

Ira Winderman, Sun Sentinel on

Published in Basketball

MIAMI -- Dwyane Wade's return to the Miami Heat will come as a reserve, coach Erik Spoelstra said Friday morning.

To Wade, just being back to the franchise where he began his career and spent 13 seasons is victory enough, making Friday one of the most emotional days of his 15-season career.

Spoelstra said both Wade and the Heat's other acquisition at Thursday's NBA trade deadline, forward Luke Babbitt, will be available for Friday night's game against the Milwaukee Bucks at AmericanAirlines Arena.

"We want him to fit in and be a part of this group," Spoelstra said of Wade. "We're still a team built on the strength of our numbers and versatility. You add a player of his caliber to this, he can augment.

"We're not asking him to come in and bail us out."

Of being back, Wade smiled and said, "The one thing I always say about the NBA, you never know what's going to happen. I feel like the timing was perfect.

"I felt as comfortable today as the day I left. My eyes and heart were always here."

He said he was even more emotional at Thursday's deadline.

"I was definitely shocked," he said. "At the same time, I was over-the-moon excited. So I definitely had a lot of emotions. It's all working through my body right now."

Spoelstra said he views Wade and Babbitt as returning players, with both familiar with the team's approach. Babbitt was with the team last season before leaving in July in free agency to the Atlanta Hawks.

"These are not major adjustment trades we made," Spoelstra said. "We're familiar with both guys."

Spoelstra said he learned of the trade possibilities from Heat President Pat Riley just prior to Thursday's practice.

"I went up to Pat's office right before practice, maybe 45 minutes just for a quick update and he said there's a possibility that something might happen with Luke and something might happen with Dwyane," Spoelstra said. "I was about to walk out the door and stopped and said, 'What? Dwyane who?' "

Wade said it was as much of a whirlwind on his end.

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"About 11:45 I left my house, heading into the practice gym in Cleveland," he said. "And about 12 o'clock I got a text from my agent Leon Rose. I haven't gotten a lot of '911 call me now' messages on trade-deadline day in my career."

That's when he found out he was returning to the organization after 11/2 seasons away.

"Winning three championships, what this organization has been and means to my life, you do get out and see it's different," he said. "I'm definitely excited to be back. The jersey and colors fit."

Both Wade and Babbitt were with the team for Friday morning's shootaround.

"It absolutely felt like perfect timing for both parties," Spoelstra said. "It was surreal how it came about."

Of Wade's acclimation to his once-and-again teammates, Spoelstra said, "Looking forward to seeing Dwyane's reaction to see how much they've grown. They're a lot different from the last time he was here. How their confidence has grown. That will probably be fun for him to experience as well."

As for Wade playing as a closer, Spoelstra said, "He could. That's another area of his incredible greatness. But we're not asking him to come here and bail us out. What he absolutely does is help everybody."

Of Wade's conditioning, Spoelstra said, "Come on this guy has been playing an NBA season. I mean you know how we are. But this guy has been playing an important active role all season."

Wade smiled about the talk of Heat conditioning and culture flooding back in the moment.

"I had a different zip code and different jersey on my body," he said of his time with the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers these past two seasons, "but my mind was always here."

(c)2018 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

Visit the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) at www.sun-sentinel.com

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