Even though that may be impossible right now. Dwyane Wade was a beloved sports figure. The reason that this city transformed from a football town to a basketball city. You saw glimpses of how special he would be when he hit the game winner over Baron Davis in the 2003 NBA Playoffs against the Charlotte Hornets. You realized his superstar status when the legendary Shaquille O'Neal decided to come to the Miami Heat to play alongside him. You saw dominance in the 2006 NBA Finals, followed up by MVP-like seasons in 2008 and 2009. You saw how he could recruit, becoming the vital piece in bringing in LeBron James and Chris Bosh. And when "The King" left, you saw him branding himself with the city as his home and his life.
Dwyane Wade will no doubt be the greatest sports icon in Miami history due to what he did for the city in his 13 years. But even though we witnessed years of greatness, Wade is turning 35-years-old next season. Yes he was the face of our city, but he no longer had the ability to carry a team the way he once did. That's what makes Father Time greater than Father Prime. That's why this was ultimately the right "basketball decision." You have to look at the situation without your Heat filtered glasses on and view it from a business perspective. When you're able to remove your emotions and personal attachment, you'll see why it made sense. Which is why the best thing to do now.. is believe in Pat Riley.
Riley has always made the Miami Heat great through trades and free agency. When he came aboard, he traded then Heat star Glen Rice for Alonzo Mourning. In that same season, he traded for Tim Hardaway. With these two star players, the team was able to have deep playoff runs in the 90's. At the end of that run Riley traded Heat disciples Jamal Mashburn and PJ Brown for Eddie Jones and Anthony Mason. Fast forward a few years, there was an entertaining rookie season with D-Wade alongside teammates Caron Butler, Lamar Odom and Brian Grant. That team had the potential to eventually be great, but Pat didn't want to wait. So he traded 60% of his starting lineup for Shaquille O'Neal.
Free agency wise, Riley has always tried to bring in the "whales." Juwan Howard in the 90's. Tracy McGrady and Grant Hill in the early 2000's. He struck gold when LeBron James and Chris Bosh came here to form The Big 3. Riley then added important pieces like Chris Andersen, Ray Allen and Shane Battier, complimentary players that made significant differences in the second and third championships. This is who Pat Riley is. He doesn't rebuild from scratch, he retools constantly. So what should you do? Believe.
Miami currently has seven NBA players on its roster. The new centerpiece Hassan Whiteside, the unwanted Josh McRoberts, the kids Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson, Briante Weber and the big two of Goran Dragic and Chris Bosh. Outside of these seven players, you have $19 million in cap space and a $2.9 million exception. You'll need eight players on one year deals for max flexibility. Next season the Heat can have $23-$28 million in space. If McRoberts is discarded? $29-$35 million. If Goran is traded off? Miami could have nearly $50 million in space alongside a core of Whiteside, Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow. Draft wise, the Heat have their first round pick next season. In its current state, yes the team will struggle, but this upcoming season, Miami isn't winning the championship anyway. In the bigger picture, the future is bright.
That future is the 2017 free agency. The chance to get up to two max free agents. Russell Westbrook? Blake Griffin? All Pat wants is to be in that conversation. To be in the conversation, you need all your resources. You need to entice with money and provide reasons to be in Miami. If you keep Wade till he retires you will be the Los Angeles Lakers. If you don't keep him, you have a shot at beating the Golden State Warriors or Cleveland Cavaliers down the road.
Another point of view is where D-Wade left to. The Chicago Bulls were in rebuilding mode once they traded Derrick Rose and lost Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol. Now they added Rajon Rondo and Wade and they are in a lukewarm state. They won't threaten Cleveland next year. The new backcourt along with Jimmy Butler are all jump shooters and drivers, so who is shooting from the outside? From a public relations spin, Chicago lost its son in Rose and gained another son in D-Wade. I personally think Wade will sign a one-year deal with the Heat in his very last season and all can be forgiven.
Pat Riley has a love for this franchise that outweighs any figure that plays for this team. No one player, no matter how significant the contribution will handcuff him. He has an ego and is old-school stubborn. He's wrong for not reportedly contacting Dwyane. For not making him feel important enough after 13 years of service. But his view of the bigger picture won't change, because his commitment is to the front of the jersey, not the name on the back.
One of the greatest sports tenures in South Florida history has finished. The end of an era. It will be heartbreaking not hearing "Dwyaaaane Waaaade" in the introduction during the first game. This will be a painful process, but there's a possible bigger reward in the future. That's why at this time, the moment calls for us to believe in Pat Riley.