Free-agent mad­ness hits Mi­ami

Wade joins James, Haslem in opt­ing out; Bosh will de­cide soon

Winnipeg Free Press - SundayXtra - - SPORTS I COMICS - By Tim Reynolds

MI­AMI — Dwyane Wade has made his choice. Chris Bosh is still mulling Ei­ther way, free agency for the Mi­ami Heat is shap­ing up as an ab­so­lute cir­cus.

Wade told the Heat on Satur­day that he is opt­ing out of the fi­nal two years and nearly $42 mil­lion in his con­tract, and will be­come a free agent on Tues­day — the same de­ci­sion that LeBron James re­vealed ear­lier in the week.

Also Satur­day, Udo­nis Haslem told the Heat that he will not pick up his $4.6 mil­lion op­tion for next sea­son. But Bosh is still weigh­ing his op­tions, agent Henry Thomas told The As­so­ci­ated Press, af­ter a mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion ear­lier in the day sug­gested that the for­ward was al­ready sold on the idea of opt­ing out.

“Chris has not de­cided yet,” Thomas told AP early Satur­day evening.

Strange as it may sound, the de­ci­sions by James and now Wade and Haslem are con­sid­ered good for the

‘Dwyane has been the cor­ner­stone

of our or­ga­ni­za­tion for over a decade, and we hope he re­mains a part of the Heat

fam­ily for life’

Heat, since those three moves alone free up about $45 mil­lion in what would have been salary Mi­ami was com­mit­ted to pay­ing next sea­son. If Bosh opts out, that fig­ure goes to $66 mil­lion, and the idea of not hav­ing that locked into the books gives Mi­ami tons of flex­i­bil­ity to lure their stars back into new deals — plus have enough money left over to make additional ros­ter up­grades.

“To­day we were no­ti­fied of Dwyane’s in­ten­tion to opt- out of his con­tract and Udo­nis’ in­ten­tion to not opt into his con­tract, mak­ing both play­ers free agents,” Heat pres­i­dent Pat Ri­ley said. “Dwyane has been the cor­ner­stone of our or­ga­ni­za­tion for over a decade, and we hope he re­mains a part of the Heat fam­ily for life. Udo­nis has been the heart­beat of this team for 11 years. He has sac­ri­ficed count­less times to make this or­ga­ni­za­tion suc­cess­ful, and he is the epit­ome of what this or­ga­ni­za­tion stands for.

“We look for­ward to meet­ing with Dwyane and Udo­nis and their agent in the com­ing days to dis­cuss our fu­ture to­gether.”

So now, all eyes turn to Bosh, who was part of the much-cel­e­brated move Mi­ami made four years ago to team up James and Wade with the Heat. They’ve been to­gether for four years, and have been to the fi­nals in each, win­ning the ti­tle twice.

“We want this to work out and I think we’ll find a way to get it done,” Bosh told The As­so­ci­ated Press shortly af­ter the Heat fell in the NBA Fi­nals ear­lier this month to the San An­to­nio Spurs.

Haslem ex­pressed the same sen­ti­ment.

“We all want the same thing around here,” Haslem said at the end of the sea­son.

Re­gard­less of what Bosh de­cides, mid­night Tues­day — the start of free agent frenzy — will be busy for Mi­ami. James and Wade could be wooed by plenty of suit­ors. James has al­ready been men­tioned as a tar­get of the Los Angeles Clip­pers, the Chicago Bulls, the Hous­ton Rock­ets — and, of course, the Cleve­land Cava­liers, the team for whom he spent his first seven sea­sons.

But things are al­ready look­ing good for Mi­ami, which got the rights to for­mer Con­necti­cut guard Shabazz Napier on draft night — and Napier just hap­pened to be James’ favourite player in the draft.

Wade, James and Bosh all had deals with an op­tion to be­come free agents ei­ther this sum­mer or next. There’s ob­vi­ously no guar­an­tee that all or any would re­turn to the Heat now, but it’s also hard to en­vi­sion all three go­ing their sep­a­rate ways af­ter mak­ing four trips to the NBA Fi­nals to­gether and win­ning two cham­pi­onships.

“We’ve got a lot of room for flex­i­bil­ity,” Ri­ley said as the off-sea­son was start­ing. “There is a tremen­dous amount of flex­i­bil­ity depend­ing on what hap­pens. We’re ready. Now, do I feel any pres­sure? No, I don’t. I don’t feel any pres­sure at all. I’m go­ing to do the best job that I can do and we will all do the best job we can do. I don’t think we have to re­cruit Chris and LeBron and Dwyane again.

“I’m not drop­ping cham­pi­onship rings on the ta­ble for those guys,” Ri­ley added, re­fer­ring to his fa­mous re­cruit­ing trick from 2010. “They can drop their own.”

Wade took a con­sid­er­able amount of crit­i­cism this past sea­son, first for miss­ing 28 reg­u­lar-sea­son games — largely be­cause of what the Heat called a main­te­nance pro­gram for his long-prob­lem­atic knees — and then for strug­gling in the NBA Fi­nals. Wade av­er­aged 24.3 points in his first 11 sea­sons and is un­ques­tion­ably the most ac­com­plished player in Heat his­tory, leading the fran­chise’s all-time lists in sev­eral cat­e­gories.

Ri­ley calls Wade “an icon” and re­mains sold on his value, though ac­knowl­edges at 32 and with plenty of in­juries in his past, some con­tin­ued evo­lu­tion to his game — and per­haps his role — could be needed.

— The As­so­ci­ated Press

LYNNE SLADKY / THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILES

LeBron James (left), Dwyane Wade (3) and Chris Bosh (1) might end up go­ing their sep­a­rate ways.

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