What a difference a year makes. Last summer, the Miami Heat and Dwyane Wade had an uncommon falling out over the future of the Hall of Fame guard. Wade wanted to stay in Miami, but he wanted more years and more money than the Heat was comfortable handing out at that time.
In the end, the Heat and Wade came to terms on a one-year deal for $20 million that both paid the franchise's best player like a superstar and left the Heat with the sort of flexibility they desired heading into the 2016 offseason.
Well, the 2016 offseason is here, and once again Dwyane Wade isn't technically a member of the Miami Heat... for now. It seems as if this time around, both sides have no desire to go through what they did last July. This time, they are planning to work together on what's best for the team, while still making Wade feel like the legend he is.
Pat Riley said as much during his end-of-season press conference:
“He wants to win, I think, as much as he wants to do anything. Compensation to a player is not just a way to get paid and to live your life. Compensation to a player is about recognition and respect and place. We know where he belongs… He’s a lifer. What he’s done in this city over the last 13 years is irreplaceable and so we’re going to do the right thing. There’s no doubt.”
As for Wade, free agency seems like a nuisance to him at this point more than anything; Miami is where he plans to stay.
“I don’t want to be on the market at all,” Wade said two days after the Heat’s season ended with a Game 7 loss to Toronto in the Eastern Conference semifinals. “I’m not curious at all. I want to get to it [with the Heat]. I want to be able to sign my deal and move on and not have to deal with any rumors, any free agency, any this, any that. This is where I want to end my career. So we’ll figure it out.”
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Like any marriage, players and teams have their ups and downs, especially when said player has spent his entire dozen-year career with the team. Wade, 34, had one of the best years of his career in 2016, all things considered. He played in 84 games including the postseason, far more than even the most optimistic Heat fan anticipated. Wade didn't only play, though — he dominated, averaging 19 points, four rebounds, and four assists a game. It was the best-case scenario health-wise for Wade and proved he still is capable of being at the very least a solid piece of the team's presently constructed championship window going forward.
With Hassan Whiteside emerging, Luol Deng and Joe Johnson still to negotiate possible returns, and salary cap room galore to be spent however the team wishes, how the team and Wade decide they would like to move forward is still a question. What does Wade value more: one more big payday or one more championship? His choices from here out will be interesting to see.
What won't be interesting is the Dwyane Wade free-agency watch; he's a Miami Heat lifer.