It’s no secret Dwyane Wade’s return to the Miami Heat has been good for business.
Last Friday, ESPN reported jersey sales for the Heat went up 8,000 percent after the Heat acquired him via trade for a 2024 heavily protected second round pick. Orders for Wade’s jersey have come in from more than 100 countries.
TV ratings last Friday for Wade’s first game back in a Heat uniform also went through the roof. Miami’s 91-85 win over Milwaukee was the most watched Heat game, according to FoxSports, since Wade and the Heat lost to defending champion Golden State Warriors on Feb. 24, 2016 (a few months before he left for Chicago in free agency). Friday’s game was also the most streamed Heat game ever on Fox Sports Go.
As long as the Heat (30-26) remain in the playoff picture (Miami slipped to the No. 8 seed in the East after Philadelphia’s win Monday night), viewership and jersey sales figure to remain on the rise.
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Wade, 36, told NBA TV last Friday he doesn’t want to play anywhere else but Miami before he retires. Monday, he told ESPN’s Jorge Sedano that decision will ultimately come down to team president Pat Riley. Wade, who played 22 minutes and scored three points in his first game back in Miami Friday, will be a free agent this summer.
From a basketball standpoint, the Heat has Tyler Johnson ($19.2 million), Dion Waiters ($11.55 million), Josh Richardson ($9.3 million) and Rodney McGruder ($1.5 million) all under contract next season among wing players. The Heat also has the early bird rights to resign Wayne Ellington, who is having a career season as a three-point shooter.
How coach Erik Spoelstra finds minutes for all his healthy wings as it stands after the All-Star break this coming weekend will be interesting. Although Waiters won’t play again until next season following January ankle surgery, McGruder, who started 65 games as a rookie last year, practiced with the team for the first time on Monday since fracturing his tibia in the preseason. He’s expected back soon.
The Heat, though, from a business standpoint can’t ignore the interest Wade has drummed up with his return.
How much longer does Wade think he will play?
“I don’t know,” Wade told Sedano in a sitdown interview Monday before the team left for Toronto. “I’ll leave it up to Coach Riley. He always told me I would play to 40. I was like ‘No. Never.’
“I’m 36. How did I even get here? Right now, I’m playing the game and I’m taking it year by year. I’m going into the summer seeing how I feel, especially from this point on and then we’ll see. But I’m here forever. This is Wade County forever. I will always be here. No matter where I go in the world I will be here. Until I get done playing the game of basketball, I’ll have on a Miami Heat jersey and I will enjoy this ride as long as it lasts.”
Some other interesting topics Wade touched on Monday:
▪ Wade said he spoke to Kobe Bryant about his farewell tour in 2016 and it’s not something that interests him at all.
“I'm not a narcissist like that,” Wade told Sedano. “I don’t think I need it. I’m not calling Kobe a narcissist. He earned it and needed that. But I can’t set out and say I want a farewell tour like Kobe Bryant. That’s not who I am. I don’t really talk about it, but when the time comes [to retire] I’ll announce it in my own D-Wade fashion. Hopefully I can move on and live on the memories from that point on.”
▪ Wade also said he is not going to spend anytime recruiting close friend and former teammate LeBron James to Miami when the four-time MVP becomes a free agent this summer.
“I ain’t got nothing to do with it,” Wade said of James’ potential recruitment. “One thing I know is he makes his own decisions. When he gets to that point, hopefully he takes a good look at the place he’s at, gives it real consideration and goes from there. It’s his decision and I don’t want nothing to do with it at all.”
▪ Wade said he texted Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman after his trade to thank him for sending him to Miami.
“I also told him you did one helluva job – to bring those guys he brought into the organization,” Wade said. “It’s not nothing negative against the guys that aren’t there [anymore]. But it just wasn’t working. It wasn’t fitting the way a championship organization wants to see it fit.
“They brought in some good pieces. They’re happy. I’m happy. Isaiah [Thomas] looks happy. Jae Crowder went to a place that his father played. Guys are happy and I don’t want anybody to talk bad about the guys that were there like it was their fault. No, it didn’t work. And that’s OK. Everybody went on to their respective places. And everyone is happy. That’s a good thing.”
▪ What went wrong with the Cavaliers that led to the breakup at the trade deadline? “We started losing,” Wade said. “Winning cures all lose, losing makes all seem bad.”
▪ Wade said last week he ran into Riley at the funeral of agent Henry Thomas and their subsequent embrace there helped thaw some of the feelings between them following Wade’s departure. How would Wade classify their relationship now?
“It’s always been a respect of Pat Riley the coach, Pat Riley the president because he cares about winning,” Wade said. “He has a culture, he has a belief, a system, and I know it works. It’s just like any relationship, you go through trying times. But overall we’ve had a great relationship. We have a great amount of respect for each other. We love each other.
“I know I’m successful because I’ve been in his organization. And, I’ve added a little bit to his legacy – not a lot, just a little bit to his legacy. But I’m definitely an important part of this franchise that was important to him when he came here – to get this franchise off the ground. So that connection and relationship will always be forever.”
▪ Would Wade like a do-over for what happened in the summer of 2016?
“If you can go back I think you would do over a lot of things,” Wade said. “I think for me, for the organization, for the city of Miami, by me leaving I think we all appreciate each other just a little bit more. If I never left – I’m not saying they wouldn’t appreciate me, but it wouldn’t be the same. And the same here. I appreciate the city more. I appreciate the organization more and I had to leave to figure that out. The same thing from the city of Miami and for the organization. Everything worked itself the way it did for a reason I believe.”
▪ Although the Heat has a reputation for making practices a little too intense for some players, Wade said he missed them. Riley told Wade he could no longer have pancake breakfasts anymore the same day he traded for him and that he needed to eat more vegetables.
Wade, who had his body fat measured over the weekend and is doing extra conditioning work to shed body fat, said he told Riley and Heat trainers he drank too much wine in Cleveland after the passing of his agent.
▪ Wade said he went to dinner Sunday at one of his favorite restaurants on the Miami River and received a warm ovation.
“As soon as we walked in, it's like a slow clap that turned into a whole ovation for 10 minutes,” Wade said. “The buzz is there in the city and its cool to go out and feel it.”
▪ How cool is it to see his jersey sales skyrocketing now that he’s back in Miami?
“It’s amazing,” Wade said. “A lot of it has to do with that Miami name and Wade name together. People love that. It definitely wasn’t like that when I had that number 9 in Cleveland, I didn’t hear that. It’s definitely a combination of excitement of Heat Nation around the world and seeing both of those names together. I’m definitely lucky, I'm blessed. This is organization is, too, that we can have that kind of impact. It’s pretty cool. I always thank everyone who supports me. It’s such a cool thing. I don’t take it for granted.”