Ri­ley wants Wade back

But does Wade want to re­turn for 15th sea­son?

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Sports - [email protected]­sen­tinel.com or Twitter @dav­e­hy­de­sports

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?

Dave Hyde

JOE CAVARETTA/STAFF FILE PHOTO

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