Wade steps up for his friend LeBron, rips Barkley

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Dwyane Wade came up in a company-line NBA. Playing for a notorious control freak in Pat Riley, he learned the time-honored tradition of tightly guarding team business and only airing gripes the old-fashioned way: with leaks to the media.

But times have changed. Today, loose lips get clicks.

Wade proved as much last week after the Bulls’ collapse at home against the Hawks. He and running mate Jimmy Butler sent a crystal-clear message by lighting up their teammates in front of reporters’ cameras, questioning their commitment.

The Bulls seem to have (momentarily) stabilized with the victory Sunday against the 76ers — “Nothing needs to be repaired; we’re fine,” Wade said after practice Tuesday — but he already has found another target:

Charles Barkley.

Wade was defending former Heat teammate and good friend LeBron James, who has been criticized often by Barkley on TNT’s “Inside the NBA.”

Barkley is quick to praise James as “the greatest player in the world” but has called him out for everything from being too chummy with opponents to his part in “The Decision,” and last week, he described James as “whiny.”

On Monday, James unloaded on Barkley through ESPN.com, citing the Hall of Famer’s many controversial incidents during his playing career — including throwing a heckler through a window and spitting on a fan as well as his “I am not a role model” commercial catch phrase-turned-guiding philosophy.

“All I’ve done for my entire career is represent the NBA the right way,” James said. “Fourteen years, never got in trouble. Respected the game. Print that.

“I’m tired of biting my tongue. There’s a new sheriff in town.”

Wade, for one, was glad to see James sharpen his spurs.

“Thank God, he finally said something,” Wade said.

“Guys ride him, especially ex-players. When you’ve got a history, when you can go and Google your history, then be a little careful with what you say. Sometimes when guys get a microphone in front of their face, they just talk and talk and talk and forget about their history. We all make that mistake [sometimes], but especially that guy on TV. He acts like he just walked on water.

“LeBron is who he is. We all have flaws. But when your flaws are a little bit more, then you should shut up.”

Those who viewed Wade’s comments after the loss to the Hawks as hypocritical — his inconsistent defensive effort and questionable shot selection received plenty of scrutiny — will have fun with that line.

But even that furor will fade if Wade and the Bulls (24-25) manage another upswing as they begin a six-game road gauntlet Wednesday night in Oklahoma City against the Thunder.

The Warriors and Rockets also await, and the Kings and Timberwolves (winners of eight of their last 11) are dangerous.

Wade said a 3-3 record on the trip is a reasonable goal, but he wasn’t interested in deliberating much on the timing or value of the exercise.

“Every team says a road trip comes at a good time,” Wade said. “I don’t want to be cliché anymore.

“We’re gonna have a lot of time to spend together, so from a team-building and team-bonding perspective, it’s always good. But from a basketball standpoint, it’s only good if you win. It’s not a good trip if you’re losing.”

Follow me on Twitter @JasonLangendorf.

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