Sounds like a simple summer for Dwyane Wade. At least that’s the way Pat Riley is framing the necessary recommitment of the Miami Heat to its star player, and vice versa.
“We’ll sit down and we’ll talk about that with Dwyane,” said Riley, who doesn’t do much for his negotiating position by proclaiming last season as Wade’s best overall performance since prior to the Big Three era.
“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.”
Wade, who flirted with the Los Angeles Lakers last summer, is in a similarly agreeable mood.
“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.”
Oh, what a relief it is to hear such words. Fans in Cleveland can’t count on that kind of assurance from LeBron James. Same for Oklahoma City fans in their relationship with Kevin Durant. It’s a tradeoff, though.
The Cavaliers and the Thunder are in the middle of what could be a championship run for either team. These are the best of times for those franchises, the most hopeful, and it’s because they have dynamic players that everyone else wants and, potentially, somebody else might get.
It’s highly unlikely that anyone would try to steal Wade from the Heat this summer or any summer. He’s 34. Doesn’t mean that Dwyane no longer is capable of scoring 20 points per game, but Allen Iverson played his final NBA season at 34. So did Bob Cousy. Jerry West and Clyde Drexler finished up at 35.
A flashy guard can go longer, but they don’t grow stronger. So the legacy talk begins to slip into conversation, and into Wade’s mind. The three titles. The NBA Finals MVP award. The Hall of Fame leadership and the spectacular ability to close out a game with a series of bruising drives and acrobatic finishes.
It’s a lot, but one day there will be no more, so Riley promises what he can. A friendly sitdown at Dwyane’s convenience, a ton of respect, a fat contract to reseal one great player to one franchise that never would have been as great without him.
You know what else will be in there, right? A tease.
Take a little less than you might like in another one-year deal. Give us a chance to talk to Durant, and not just about next season. Give all the possibilities room to breathe. It’s about more than money for a guy like you, Dwyane. It’s about full recognition and respect, which means somehow getting back to the NBA Finals, if not now then soon.
“I think we’re close, I really do,” Riley said during his season wrap-up media session. “We took a step forward. It’s one of the best locker rooms we’ve ever had. The guys really respect each other. I’m very optimistic. Why wouldn’t I be optimistic?
“Plus we’ve got the flexibility this year and next year, and that’s what I’m looking at.”
This year and next year. Just down the road, that’s where this dream is always going, and that’s where it was going even in the years where Wade and the Heat were coming off championship parades.
For that reason it’s never really a simple summer for a guy like him. He’ll be glad to get his Heat contract. He’ll be sad that it’s the only big one put in front of him. He’ll be wishing that Chris Bosh was Chris Bosh again, and that Dwyane Wade was Flash.
Can’t have it all, but he does have a place. It’s right next to Pat Riley, the man who deals out Micky Arison’s millions but sees to it that every now and then Wade still gets to play boss.