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While there is much to talk about on the international hoops and Olympics front, there is one developing story around Team USA that should have teams around the NBA quite worried: Dwyane Wade is returning with a vengeance.

Throughout the U.S. team's tune-up games and its Olympic openers against China and Angola over the past week, it has always seemed to be Wade in the midst of every highlight.  He has been fearlessly slashing to the basket, changing hands and direction in mid-air with what appears to be effortless grace and throwing down the occasional dunk to boot.  In his column on Wade from Monday, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Dave Hyde points out that Wade went 7-for-7 from the field and 5-for-5 from the line en route to a game-high 19 points in that win over China.  The man is looking healthy and playing excellent basketball.

Rudimentary as it might sound, seeing Wade play this summer has only made me realize with greater force how much I'm looking forward to having a healthy Dwyane Wade back in the NBA fold this coming season.

Read More..All of Steve's daily posts can be found in the CelticsBlog: NBA blog.  Check him out!

 

It's amazing how much a year or two can change our perceptions.

Over the last few months, I've found myself increasingly referencing one stat when Dwyane Wade's name comes up in coversation: 315 games played.  That's 315 regular season games over the first five seasons of his career,  which means 95 games lost due to injury, which is a problem.  But it's also a shame that this has become the way I think of Dwyane Wade.

Sadly, the most pervasive images of Flash in my mind at the present time are those of the 2007-08 season, in which he was clearly hampered by injuries.  Though the numbers were by no means bad - 24.2 points, 6.9 assists and 4.2 boards per game aren't exactly shabby - watching Wade play last season left viewers with the clear feeling that there was still much to be desired.  He wasn't attacking the rim with the same aggressiveness he once did.  Instead, Wade was settling for long contested two-pointers from both the wings and top of the key  The Heat's leader was still distributing the ball and getting his points, but he was doing it by shooting with less efficiency than he had since his rookie year (true shooting dropped to 54.9 percent) and by turning the ball over with greater regularity than ever before (4.4 times per game, tops in the NBA).  But beyond all the statistics, there was just a different aura to watching Wade in 2007-08, one that made the observer feel as though there was simply some dynamic missing from his game.

It's a shame that my visualization of Flash has changed in that direction because the thing about Dwyane Wade is that he remains one of the premier basketball players on this planet.  No matter the complaints about the perhaps overly sweet deal that he got from the officials in the 2006 playoffs, this guy was simply on another level in 2005-06 and for the part of 2006-07 for which he was healthy.  Averaging better than 27 points, 5 boards and 7 assists per game over that time helped, but it was watching him that was truly striking.  

This was a guy who literally seemed to be able to do anything he wanted throughout those two seasons.  He could get to the rack, go reverse, up and under, windmill while switching hands, finger roll, lay it in, throw down on a defender and just about anything else you can think of around the rim.  Or he could drive and dish, either out for an open jumper or to a cutter on a perfect lob for a thunderous alley-oop.  Though he isn't a great shooter, his accuracy is palatable from mid-range, and Wade's explosive first step would force defenders to play off of him, thus giving him more room to rise up from 18 to 20 feet.

This is the guy who could fall down seven times and get up eight, the guy who carried his team on his back to an NBA title just two years ago.

Injuries have prevented him from being that same guy over the last year or so, but from seeing him this summer, the guilt within me is already coming strong for thinking of Wade as anything but that man from 2006 and 2007.

As a fan of this game, I'm looking forward to having a healthy Dwyane Wade back in action this season.

As a fan of one of the league's 29 teams that don't reside in Miami, it's a scary thought to know that he may be back for real.