Dwyane Wade's rookie season ended with a playoff loss to the Indiana Pacers. The next year, the Miami Heat were headed to the Eastern Conference finals and certain that an NBA championship was in their sights.
That's when Wade learned a valuable lesson: Never take playoff chances for granted.
Wade hurt his rib cage on a simple crossover dribble during that 2005 East title series, and the Heat season ended with a Game 7 home loss to Detroit. He's been to the East finals three times since, prevailing in them all, and on Wednesday will look to take a first step toward a fourth conference championship when the Heat play host to the Pacers in Game 1 of their playoff rematch from a year ago.
''I know I'm blessed to be going to the Eastern Conference finals for my fifth time,'' Wade said. ''But I would like a lot more in my career. It's a good thing. We've been very successful in my tenure here. But I want more.''
For Wade and Udo...