The Miami Heat stand at a crossroads and face the possibility of consecutive offseasons where they lose a superstar player. After 12 years with the Heat, Dwyane Wade is reportedly open to joining another team as he will likely become a free agent. He will meet with Pat Riley at the start of the free agency period and discuss his contract but, in the meantime, we wonder...will Wade stay with the Miami Heat or is his time here at an unfortunate end?
David Ramil: As late as April of this year, shortly after the Heat’s horrible season came to an end, Wade assured reporters that he had no intention of opting out of his contract. The plan was to collect what he agreed to last year (a $16.1 million payday) and preserve Riley’s vision of salary cap flexibility for 2016. Just a month later, rumors began circulating that he wanted a three-year deal at-or-near the maximum contract amount of $20+ million; the Heat reportedly offered him $10 million. That, as they say when it comes to divorce, is an irreconcilable difference. After over a decade of service to the team, the lowball offer has had the unintended effect of driving Wade away from the only team he was ever expected to play for in the NBA.
Earnest Christian: My problem with all this is I don't know who to believe. We go through this year after year with every little nugget that's leaked somehow becomes a storyline for fans and critics to run with. Here's what my gut tells me. There is a divide between the two parties but I do agree Miami has every intention on "taking care" of Dwyane for the foreseeable future while Wade would much rather end his career in not only the solo city he's ever played in professionally but also a team that actually has a strong chance of contending at the top of the Eastern Conference. I think those scenarios matter.
DR: You might be right and I’ll give you the fact that there are hardly any known facts at all. Still, we act like we understand the mind of a NBA player. The things you mention appeal to us as fans looking from the outside-in. But LeBron showed that you can leave and return and be welcomed back with no hard feelings. And while we assume it’s money that’s motivating Wade, it could simply be a matter of pride. That the franchise he’s dedicated himself to so completely would try (allegedly) to shortchange him. That his injuries and physical/financial sacrifices can be undervalued. That Riley plans on paying unproven players like Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside while ignoring the player that’s carried the team for so long.
And if contending is his real goal, then joining other teams (like the Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks or Dallas Mavericks) might make more sense. Like James in Cleveland, this could also be about Wade showing - perhaps for the first time in his career - that he can exercise some control over the franchise instead of the other way around.
EC: We keep hearing teams like Cleveland really can't afford Dwyane if there's a ballpark figure of what he wants ultimately. But then again, LeBron James runs that asylum and if his BFF wants to play there then by God they will make it happen. Ultimately I'm ready for this saga to end mainly because I want to decipher what is truth from fiction. I'm still on the side of the Heat needing Wade more than the other way around. Unlike LeBron last summer, Dwyane has the potential to hurt Miami much more because of the perception the Heat has built for years around family and loyalty. Plus while risky if Wade wanted to take this further he does know "where the bodies are buried".
DR: So...do you want Wade to stay because you appreciate him as a player or simply because you think it hurts Miami too much from a PR perspective (i.e. buried bodies, etc.)? Y’see, that’s the kind of attitude that could upset temperamental/egotistical superstar millionaires. Maybe this conversation has gone off-the-rails a bit, but it’s not hard to suggest that players like Wade or LeBron are used to getting what they want. For them, it’s also about perception - what they perceive and how others hold them in high or low regard.
Perhaps Riley simply made the token offer of $10 million assuming that Wade would be loyal to the franchise, above all else. But if Wade really has that kind of power over the franchise as you suggest, why not make the most generous offer possible in order to appease him? It’s not about what’s known or not; the chances of Wade re-signing are 50/50 at this point. It’s that Miami’s strong-arm tactics with Wade this summer and LeBron last year, aren’t as effective as they once were. It’s time to wake up and smell the roses, Heat fans.
EC: If Wade walks who’s next in line? Monta Ellis? The Heat would be still in the luxury tax threshold even if Wade did walk according to many Heat beat writers that’s even closer to the situation than we are. Lets not pretend the guy isn't productive when healthy. Given how everything played out during the East playoff it really isn’t far fetched that had the Heat won one more game this season and made the postseason that they honestly could’ve given Atlanta a run for their money. For as bad and dreadful as last season was, Wade was the one diamond in the rough who reminded folks of his greatness. Honestly I’d rather get 60 games of Wade than 80 games of a replacement two-guard who won’t even present half the production Dwayne can still give to this team. And at the end of the day isnt it still keeping him healthier when it matters most?
I think Wade and Miami find middle ground and front load next season’s contract and Wade does what he can to keep this team financially flexible for the forseeable. But I’ve been wrong before.