Dwyane Wade was on his way to Cleveland’s practice facility Thursday afternoon when he found out in a text message from his agent he was being reunited with the Miami Heat.
The news didn’t exactly catch him by surprise, but it definitely made the 36-year-old veteran and Heat legend happy.
“I always felt that one day it would happen,” Wade said in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press of a potential return to Miami. “For me, it’s always been a hope. You just don’t know how or when you’re going to get there.
“I’ve missed them and I know they’ve missed me.”
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Wade, who left the Heat in the summer of 2016 after 13 seasons for a little more money and a return to his hometown of Chicago, was traded by the Cavaliers on Thursday amidst a massive roster shake-up. The Heat got him back for a second round pick in 2024.
He’ll make his debut Friday night when the Heat (29-26) host the Milwaukee Bucks. Miami is clinging to the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, a game up on both Philadelphia and Detroit.
“This is definitely a playoff team,” Wade told AP. “This is a team that a lot of teams around the NBA respect because of the way that they play the game.”
Heat president Pat Riley said Wade will likely come off the bench, but said it will be up to coach Erik Spoelstra to decide.
Six of Wade’s former teammates who last played with him in Miami two seasons ago are still on the team including captain and close friend Udonis Haslem. They’re all excited he’s back with the franchise he helped lead to three NBA titles and where he earned 12 All-Star appearances. Wade is Miami’s all-time leader in points, games, assists and steals, shots made and shots taken.
Haslem spent a lot of time talking with Wade lately as the two mourned the death of their former agent Henry Thomas. At Thomas’ funeral recently, Riley and Wade mended some broken fences.
“The hug that we embraced was real and it was all we needed,” Wade told AP. “That’s it. That’s all we both needed. I walked away and I felt better about everything, without even getting into anything.”
Riley of course didn’t trade for Wade simply out of loyalty. He’s hoping he can help replace Dion Waiters, who is out for the season, and provide depth at shooting guard along with Wayne Ellington and Tyler Johnson.
“There’s something about Dwyane at the end of games that is unique and special,” Riley said. “I don’t think you lose that. I think over the next couple of weeks as he gets re-indoctrinated back into our system, gets himself beck into that kind of condition mentally and physically, he may be a go-to guy for us at the end of the game.
“We got Goran [Dragic], we got Josh [Richardson], we got a lot of guys that have been doing that over the last year and a half. But once [Wade] conditions himself to get back to that kind of responsibility, he’s got to condition his body first and his game, I think over the next couple of weeks it’s like riding a bicycle.”