Riley wants Wade back
But does Wade want to return for 15th season?
Start with this: Heat president Pat Riley wants Dwyane Wade back. No, that doesn’t state it loud enough.
Riley wants Wade back in an important role. Well, that doesn’t strike the right tone, either.
“I want him back as a guy that wants to have the greatest year he ever had as a player,” Riley said. “I read more articles about Dwyane being done. He’s lost a step. He’s not the same player. He might not have the same motivation.
“There’s been a lot more things written about him in that context. But I still see a player who can contribute heavily if he really wants to. I believe if he plays, he’ll want to do that.
“We don’t want him back just as a placemat holder, you know, someone who’s going to be a veteran in the locker room. Dwayne is a great player. He’s a great talent. He’s not the same guy he was in 2006. But he can be a very, very good player for us and he can make a difference.”
“If this is going to be his last year, or whatever, we want him to have his best year ever.
So, you see, Riley wants Wade back badly. That’s his pitch to him. It’s important to hear, too, as Wade comes to grips with wanting to play a 15th season … at far less money than lesser teammates … at a
shooting-guard position stocked with players … on a team without championship hopes ... in a year he’d turn 37.
There’s also Wade’s recent business in China. He just signed a lifetime deal with the Li-Ning shoe company and was offered a three-year, $25 million deal with the Zhejiang Golden Bulls.
What if the two are connected? What if there’s a trigger in the shoe deal for playing in China? What if his basketball brother, Udonis Haslem, who has talked of playing in China, joins Wade over there next year?
Riley expects some resolution with Wade and Haslem by mid-August. It’s easy for fans, being fans, to say Wade should re-sign with the Heat.
Maybe we’re back two years ago when it’s about money and ego. Maybe Wade would return for the $5.6 million mid-level exception but not the veteran’s minimum of less than half that. Maybe you understand. Should Wade be happy making a fraction of the money that Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson, Wayne Ellington or Dion Waiters is getting? Would you? Or would a guy who’s made $179 million in his playing career move money down in importance when he could stay home and watch his son’s high school career?
The Heat can’t offer Wade more. Riley talked of the Heat being up against the luxury tax and how, “that’s the abyss we all deal with in the NBA. I think as we proved in the past, if you’ve won a championship or are a championship contender or heading toward that, I think you treat that differently.”
Everyone knows the Heat aren’t that team now.
Here’s the underlying question: How hungry is Wade to play on with the Heat?
His basketball legacy is set. He’s one of the top three shooting guards of all time. His South Florida standing won’t change. He is to this era what Dan Marino was to a previous one.
He had, in many respects, a storybook return to the Heat complete with standing ovations, winning shots and a throwback playoff game that for one night offset the Heat’s dismal series against Philadelphia.
Maybe that’s the way to go out for him. Or maybe as summer coasts on he feels the fuel for one more full season. It won’t be a Kobe Bryant sendoff by the Lakers. But the world of sports is full of a veterans savoring one final year.
Jason Taylor did with the Dolphins. Curtis Martin did with the Jets. Hockey Hall of Famer Denis Potvin called his final season with the Islanders, one on a team in transition like the Heat, one of his most rewarding for the joy it brought.
Wade could have that kind of year with the Heat. Riley wants it to be. Every Heat fan does, too. But the ball is in Wade’s hand. The clock is ticking. A Heat offseason without much drama still has a dramatic decision coming. Will Dwyane Wade return for his 15th season in the league playing for a Heat team stacked at guard, not contending for a title and making the $5.6 million mid-level exception?