His 14th NBA season now over after the Chicago Bulls’ first-round loss to the Boston Celtics, Dwyane Wade posted an Instagram picture announcing that he is, “Back home in Miami!!!” This post has fueled speculation over a possible reunion between the Miami Heat and the face of the franchise.
Does Wade miss the warm weather and winning culture the Heat provide? Let’s not forget that LeBron James’ wife, Savannah James, posted to Instagram, “Home sweet home!! The countdown is real!” June 22, 2014. The Instagram post caused many NBA fans to think the then-Heat player would return to the team that drafted him. And of course, LeBron James signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers just weeks later.
Does Wade’s post also foreshadow an impending return?
My guess? No.
First of all, if Wade cares about money, he’ll exercise his $23.8 million option for 2017-18 and remain with the Bulls. During his free agency last year, Wade reportedly was frustrated that the Heat did not give Wade a large financial commitment after he took pay cuts during his prime. He wanted the Heat to increase their offer. The then-34-year-old guard signed with the team that offered him a three-year deal, when other teams (including the Heat) only offered two years. Opting out would render that third year pointless.
Moreover, the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson said that any offer Miami makes would likely come at a “substantial” pay cut and possible bench role.
The Bulls’ decision regarding Butler likely will affect Wade’s decision, with neither the Heat nor Wade having ruled out a reunion for the team with which he spent his first 13 professional seasons.
But a source with knowledge of the Heat’s thinking said if Wade opts out and the Heat pursues him - and that’s no guarantee Miami would - he would need to be open to a substantial pay cut and be receptive to a potential bench role.
The Heat will have $38 million in cap space and is expected to pursue a small group of elite, in-their-prime free agents or trade targets and try to resign James Johnson and Dion Waiters before considering players such as Wade, if Wade exercises his opt-out.
The Heat have moved on from having Wade serve as the focal point of their offense. In Wright Thompson’s profile of Pat Riley, the Heat president mentions a longing to win one more championship before retiring. Having a Kobe Bryant-like goodbye tour isn’t in his plans. That’s why Jackson is probably right that Riley will pursue elite free agents who are in their prime.
And if Wade doesn’t care about the money and decides he doesn’t want to stay with the dysfunctional Bulls — he questioned his teammates’ effort and in turn received criticism from his teammates — he could always sign with the Cavaliers and join LeBron James. Wade said after his season ended, “I don’t need to ring-chase, but I can.”
My guess is that if we’ll ever see Wade don a Heat uniform before his career ends, it’ll be similar to Alonzo Mourning’s final years with the Heat — a bench role for a player clearly in the sunset of his career. And I don’t think Wade is there yet.