MIAMI -- You know that extra gear?
The one Dwyane Wade had to play without late last season and throughout the playoffs?
Skipping the Olympics for offseason knee surgery made sure of that.
A grueling rehab process sped up the original timeline.
Wade even gave up dinner rolls and his beloved lemonade to make sure he was ready for Tuesday's season-opening win over the Celtics.
That was vintage Wade out there again, putting up 29 points on just 22 shot attempts, getting to the foul line 11 times and showing that missing quickness again on both ends of the floor.
"It did feel good," he said. "Like old times again."
Wade stuck right with young Courtney Lee on defense.
He heeded Mario Chalmers' advice and posted up Rajon Rondo in the final quarter.
And when cramps sent LeBron James back to the locker room for long stretches of the second half, Wade took control of the offense and turned back a late Celtics rally.
"Don't want Bron leaving too many times," Wade said, "but it felt good to have kind of what I'm used to in a sense."
"Guys coming to me within a game," he said.
It was only one game, of course, and Wade admittedly got tired near the end of his 35-minute night.
Still, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra talked afterward about seeing that old "quickness" and "quick-twitch" movement and "the explosiveness of Dwyane Wade" that wasn't available last May and June.
Back when the Heat haters were starting to write him off at age 30.
Those difficult days seemed very distant as Wade went slaloming again through the Celtics defense, frustrating Rondo to the point of punkishness in the game's final seconds.
A little earlier, Wade had dribbled hard at Rondo with the right hand, crossed him over at the foul line and freed himself up with two quick dribbles to his left.
Then Wade stuck the mid-range jumper in Rondo's face.
Now, with 16.9 seconds left, Wade drove past Rondo again. Only this time, as Wade went past, he felt Rondo reach out with one hand and grab him around the neck area.
Then he felt Rondo grab his upper arm with the other hand.
"He clotheslined me with two hands," Wade said later. "It was a punk play."
The kind of play that is made by a defender who isn't quite good enough to stop a man straight up.
The kind of play the losing team makes when it doesn't have quite enough firepower to keep pace.
Wade and Rondo went nose to nose for a few tense moments as teammates hustled over.
Wade bit his tongue and held his temper.
"I got my kids watching," he said, "so I stopped myself."
Rondo brushed aside my questions on the incident. He even held back when apprised of Wade's "punk play" review.
"Everybody's entitled to their opinion," Rondo said. "I know he has a voice. There's nothing else to it."
Too bad we'll have to wait nearly three full months for the rematch on Jan. 27 in Boston.
In the meantime, Wade just wants to get a little stronger each day, a little closer to his former, leading-man self.
The drive is still there to do it. So is the hunger — literally.
Spoelstra called it "remarkable" that Wade's weight and body fat were the exact same when he showed for training camp as they were back on June 21.
How did Wade manage that?
"It was tough," he said. "I tried my hardest to eat better than I ever ate before, and I just tried to stay off certain things."
Like his favorite drink. (Non-Gatorade category.)
"I'm a lemonade fiend," he said. "I love it, and I haven't drunk lemonade all year. That's something that hurts me when I go to restaurants and I'm eating, but I don't drink sweet stuff anymore."
"Just got to be a little smarter," he said.
To reclaim that extra gear.
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