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The Sixth Man: Injuries, lack of professionalism exposing Wade

Dwyane Wade has to be hurting, right?

A former NBA Finals MVP and league scoring champion, Wade played perhaps the worst game of his professional career against the Indiana Pacers on Thursday.

The Marquette product was a pathetic 2-for-13 from the floor, turned it over five times and told his lightly-regarded head coach to "[expletive] off" at one point in a 94-75 setback to the Pacers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Of course Wade is South Beach's version of John Gotti, he's Teflon. Unlike LeBron James, when D-Wade comes up small in a big spot, people start looking for swords to fall on.

Clearly Wade is banged-up and while the Heat downplayed that with the conventional "everyone has bumps and bruises this time of year talk," they also made sure to leak to ESPN that Wade is still dealing with lingering injuries and required treatment for knee and leg soreness recently.

It didn't take Sherlock Holmes to figure that one out. The dynamic guard, one of the most reckless finishers in basketball, didn't attack the rim in Game 3, settled for jumpers time and time again and barely elevated as just about everything came up short.

But, this is not about an injury or accumulating injuries that are affecting Wade's play. None of that can explain his lack of professionalism in this series.

Wade has acted like a petulant child throughout the set with two acts standing out, his cowardly Flagrant 1 foul on Darren Collison in Game 2 and his public reprimanding of Erik Spoelstra on Thursday.

Can you imagine if James had committed either sin or even went 2-for-13 in a big game? People would be lighting torches and gathering pitchforks in the town square.

The point here is that James is held to a higher standard. He's expected to perform at the highest level each and every night regardless of the backstory.

That said, the exercise here is not to make you feel sorry for LeBron. He's made his own bed with the farcical way he left Cleveland and even though he's the best basketball player on the planet, James will always be held to a standard that mere mortals simply can't live up too. That's his burden and he has no one but himself to blame for it.

The narrative in Miami, however, has been to criticize James for his lack of leadership skills and applaud Wade for stepping back and allowing a far better player to "lead the Heat."

In fact, making excuses for Wade has become a cottage industry in South Florida but it's one that has taken on a shelf life.

Wade knows Spoelstra is under the microscope but asked to explain his actions during the heated exchange with his coach, the All-Star played dumb. "I don't even remember what y'all talking about," Wade said.

That, of course, forced others, including Spoelstra, into the tough position of explaining Wade's selfish behavior.

"We've got a lot of alpha males in this locker room, on this team," veteran forward Udonis Haslem said. "We're going to encourage each other and get on each other's case when need be. But it's all constructive criticism. I don't think it's personal with anybody. Emotions get high."

"Anybody that has been part of a team or has been a coach or been a player, you have no idea how often things like that happen," Spoelstra added. "That was during a very emotional part of the game. We were getting our butt kicked. Dwyane and I have been together for a long, long time. We've been through basically everything."

Coaches and players with the Heat are desperately trying to lead as Miami's season circles the drain. Spoelstra along with James and Haslem are doing everything possible to figure out how to compensate for the loss of big man Chris Bosh, who is out indefinitely with a lower abdominal strain he sustained in the opening game of the series.

Wade isn't making it easy for them.

Remember that Gotti, the former head of the famous Gambino Crime Family in New York, was known as "The Teflon Don" right up until the day he was convicted.

One or two more immature acts by Wade, coupled with continued poor play, and Bosh's injury will do more than expose the Heat, it will finally shine a light on a guy that's received a free pass for far too long.