We have been bombarded in every direction since before free agency started with the notion that Dwyane Wade deserves a contract this season for at least the $20 million he agreed upon last summer if not even more.
After all, he is the face of the franchise and the leader in just about every offensive category in their history on top of being a three-time NBA champ, NBA Finals MVP and a perennial All-Star. And with the rise in the salary cap there are plenty of bad teams willing to give outlandish contracts to players who haven't been close to any of Wade's numerous accomplishments.
But that's not the Heat's way, and that's one of the reasons why Pat Riley's teams consistently make the playoffs, win divisions and reached the NBA Finals five teams in the past decade. None of it would have been possible without Wade, but that doesn't change the fact that Riley -- here and now for the good of the franchise -- should stand his ground and offer Wade a reduced contract to keep playing in Miami.
How did it work out for the Los Angeles Lakers to give Kobe Bryant that huge final contract? Or better yet, how about the San Antonio Spurs being able to consistently refine and improve their team over the years thanks to Tim Duncan's no-frills, no-nonsense approach to securing his more-than-reasonable contract demands as he's aged?
There is no question that Wade deserves much, much more. He is an undisputed global superstar who can get the crowd off their feet with his flashy play, in addition to adding considerable marketing muscle to any business venture or NBA franchise he's associated with. He has always been a stand-up guy, family man, with charisma to spare. If owner Micky Arison could, I'm sure he'd open his fat wallet and pay Wade considerably more.
But that's not how it works with the confines of the salary cap, as massive as it may seem to most NBA teams willing and able to make change for the sake of change at the expense of millions of dollars for contracts that already look bad and will look even worse in years to come.
Clearly Miami needed to first lock up Hassan Whiteside, a player much taller and younger than Wade, as they were in risk of losing a highly valuable asset moving forward to a team like the Dallas Mavericks for nothing. And they had to court Kevin Durant aggressively to secure a meeting with him, as they did with LaMarcus Aldridge last offseason. The fact that Pat Riley and the Heat executives are trying so hard to try to improve the team around Wade and give him a chance at a fourth ring, even if they face long odds in acquiring these star players, should be something Wade should feel grateful for, not feel reportedly offended by because he hasn't been taken care of yet.
Wade put up great numbers last season in a "comeback" season in which he played 74 games, but there are no assurances he can repeat that performance a year older. With so much cap space locked up with the uncertainty of Chris Bosh's future playing days, Riley would be wise to hoard what's left of his cap space to sign younger talent that could be able to replace Wade's production, or simply give Dragic the keys to the offense and allow promising young players such as Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson and Briante Weber more playing time and a bigger role on the team.
For just as much as we hear that Wade deserves a bigger contract, and those arguments are certainly solid, as he vacations in Europe with his lovely wife and close friends like LeBron James, we also see him hanging out with the Iceman in a Gatorade ad on just about every commercial break during the NBA Playoffs, designing a new pair of custom-designed Stance socks or Hublot watch worth thousands, playing basketball in a bedroom on a mini-rim with his signature on it, or going on a sponsored tour to meet his adoring Chinese fans and promote the Li-Ning (and his) brand.
Miami doesn't have to apologize for the way they handled free agency this year and make amends. Quite frankly, Wade has little leverage. What's the alternative at this point, moving to Milwaukee or Denver for a few extra million? Do the Heat really need to sacrifice another player on the roster like Josh McRoberts for nothing just to carve out some more cap space in the name of ego and pride? Miami just saw two starting forwards leave for more money elsewhere, now they would need to give up even more depth to satisfy Wade's contract demands. It will most certainly close the door, if there was any hope, on a return of the promising young guard Tyler Johnson. And what about filling out the rest of the roster with almost nothing left over? Remember, they currently only have seven players under contract, including the newly-signed Whiteside and Briante Weber, with Josh Richardson's contract soon to be guaranteed for next season.
Hopefully he still has a desire to play on a good team in the only city he's played professional basketball. That can only happen with a few more dollars for Riley to shop around with to put the best team together in a weak Eastern Conference. If Wade seeks more money period, then perhaps playing in China might be a better option to further boost his marketing image rather than toiling his final seasons on a bad team elsewhere where it's not always sunny and bright year-round.
Relationships are important people!— DWade (@DwyaneWade) July 4, 2016
Miami will likely meet Wade's contract demands now that Durant is a goner, but it won't be the best decision for the franchise's future. With the salary cap rising next year, Miami could have given him more money next year regardless but meeting his price now will likely mean sacrificing Riley's chances of snagging a star free agent in his prime next summer, to say nothing of actually improving the roster for the upcoming season.