A quick reminder first, in the spirit of transparency: This time one year ago, I didn’t think LeBron James would leave Miami. I thought the return to Cleveland was the heroic storybook ending he would save for later in his career. Never thought he would walk away from the Heat’s four straight NBA Finals appearances and two championships.
The lesson? That little is certain when the factors include wild cards such as power, ego, pride and respect. Almost forgot. And money. Lots of that.
This summer’s version of Heat high drama includes all of those usual factors, but is complicated by the tug of prudent, cold business versus the touchy feely of loyalty and gratitude, so, yes, there is always a chance Dwyane Wade might actually leave.
OK, now that the disclaimers are out of the way, let’s get real here.
Who are we kidding?
D.Wade isn’t going anywhere.
He doesn’t want that, the Heat doesn’t want that, and it won’t happen.
Wade re-signing with Miami is mutually beneficial. He is more valuable to the Heat, literally and figuratively, than he is anywhere else.
I believe Pat Riley will offer and Wade will accept a better deal here than he will get elsewhere, and No. 3 will end his career in Miami as the city’s most beloved athlete after Dan Marino.
Will he get the max deal he feels he is worth? Almost certainly not. But it will be enough for him to save face. He will also surely have a golden retirement parachute waiting, a #HeatLifer bon mot. He will be paid lavishly to be a club executive whose only job is to simply be Dwyane Wade. The payback for past sacrifices might not be seen in the contract currently being discussed, but it will come.
The Heat is very close to being very good. It is not a ways away. It is a Wade away, now that Goran Dragic on Wednesday agreed to terms on a five-year, $90 million contract.
Young center Hassan Whiteside quickly tweeted congratulations to Dragic, saying, “Let me borrow 5 dollars. LOL.” Dragic, though, agreed quickly and perhaps could have played hardball and plied the market for more. (Hopefully the money Miami likely saved on Dragic will be applied to Wade).
Imagine this Heat starting five next season:
▪ Healthy again Chris Bosh, the All-Star power forward.
▪ Defensive stalwart Luol Deng, who opted in, at small forward.
▪ Whiteside, the ascending 7-foot center, playing his first full season and knowing a big season will set him up for a huge contract.
▪ Dragic, setting the (fast) pace at point guard.
▪ And Wade back at shooting guard, after averaging 21.5 points last season, third-best in the Eastern Conference.
This is the starting five Miami envisioned last season when it acquired Dragic from Phoenix, but those five never were on the court for even a minute together, because Bosh’s blood clots aborted his season the very day Dragic arrived.
We’re just a Wade away from finally seeing what that fivesome can do — now augmented by former Duke swingman Justise Winslow, consensus “steal of the draft,” bringing youth and excitement off the bench.
Not sure how the depth after that will play out, or where all of this might leave Miami in terms of 2016 free agency and Kevin Durant, but the Heat starting lineup if Wade re-signs can be really good.
It might not be NBA championship-good, but it can compete with anybody else in the East, by which I mean Cleveland.
Let’s not be coy, by the way. For this franchise and a lot of its fans right now, getting past LeBron to reach the Finals would be tantamount to a championship. Parade-worthy, almost.