Miami Heat

Thursday's return a chance for Dwyane Wade, Pat Riley to speak for first time since playoffs

From left to right, Miami Heat President Pat Riley, owner Micky Arison, Dwyane Wade during the second day of the Miami Heat training camp in preparation for the 2015-16 NBA season at FAU Arena on Wed., Sept. 28, 2015.
From left to right, Miami Heat President Pat Riley, owner Micky Arison, Dwyane Wade during the second day of the Miami Heat training camp in preparation for the 2015-16 NBA season at FAU Arena on Wed., Sept. 28, 2015. dsantiago@elnuevoherald.com

He’s hit Hassan Whiteside up on Snapchat, exchanged text messages with coach Erik Spoelstra and point guard Goran Dragic, and still talks to Udonis Haslem every day in some form or another.

Even though Dwyane Wade chose to leave the Miami Heat this summer in free agency to return home and play for the Chicago Bulls, he’s kept a close eye on his former team, watching every game he can while maintaining positive relationships with nearly everyone in the franchise.

Well, everyone except Pat Riley.

Wade acknowledged Wednesday the two biggest faces in franchise history still have not spoken to each other since the Heat was eliminated by the Raptors in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals back in May. And Wade’s not sure the silence will end even after he makes an emotional return to AmericanAirlines Arena Thursday night.

“I think I’ve been very open and honest about my respect and love for Pat,” Wade said Wednesday morning in Atlanta, several hours before the Bulls were set to take on the Hawks. “But I’ve also been honest that I haven’t spoken to him since the season ended.”

“I’ve communicated with everyone else,” Wade continued. “I know who Pat is. It’s no secret to me. I was there 13 years. I seen a lot of players come and go. I know how he is. If you’re not with him, you’re against him. That’s just the way he is.

“You gotta understand that, man. I’m cool with it. I’m fine. 100 percent.”

Riley, 71, expressed great remorse in July about not communicating enough with Wade during free agency, making note the negotiations between the 12-time All-Star and the Heat the last two years were being handled by owner Micky Arison.

Riley also said he planned on sending Wade a carefully crafted email filled with “metaphoric hyperbole,” one he said in late September he had finally completed and was going to send. To this day Wade said he hasn’t received it.

Thursday night, though, they will finally be in the same building again for at least a few hours. Maybe then, somewhere between a Wade video tribute and lots of tears from Heat fans, they’ll reconnect.

To the rest of the Heat family, it’s only a matter of time before they do.

“As far as this organization, from my understanding and from when I’ve talked to Pat and Micky, nobody has any grudges,” Haslem said Wednesday. “It’s still all love. It was a difficult process for everybody this summer. We all still love each other. We still consider each other family and we’ll still continue to be there for one another.

“It’s a lot of love,” Haslem continued. “You can’t be bitter. You can’t hold any grudges. What he’s meant to this organization, he’s the best player this organization has ever seen. Rings, All-Star Games, Olympic medals, none of that changes. If somebody can’t understand that, probably there the ones with the problem.”

Whiteside, who was the Heat’s No. 1 priority in free agency this summer ahead of Wade, said Wednesday he remains forever grateful to the 12-time All-Star for the way he treated him and taught him to be a pro.

“D-Wade is like a brother to me,” he said. “He always helped me out. He always brought me to the side, talked to me. He did more off the court for me than on the court. He does a lot of behind the scenes for a lot of guys, talking to guys in the locker room. It’s hard to find somebody like that — a multiple time All-Star, 10-plus years in the league. For him to take his time and explain and talk to you. I was very fortunate.”

Whiteside, like the rest of Wade’s former teammates still with the Heat, have made sure to watch most of his games with the Bulls. They’ve seen how Wade has developed his three-point shot (he was 10 of 23 from beyond the arc entering Wednesday’s game in Atlanta), and remains one of the best players in the league at getting into the paint and creating offensive chances for himself and his teammates.

“He ain’t fooling me,” Spoelstra said. “He’s a playmaker, he’s an attacker. Whatever the game calls for, that’s what he’s going to do. Right now, the goal with their system is shooting threes. But he’s going to make plays and you have to be ready for that and you have to overcome whatever. One thing I know about Dwyane, he’s going to come ready to play. You have to find a way to overcome whatever that competition is.”

▪ According to TicketIQ.com, the average ticket on the resale market for Wade’s return Thursday night has dropped 26 percent in the last week and is selling for $182. The most expensive seats are selling for as much $2,050.

Thursday: Bulls (4-3) at Heat (2-4)

When/where: 8 p.m., AmericanAirlines Arena, Miami

TV/radio: TNT; WAXY 790, WAQI 710 (Spanish)

Series: Bulls lead 55-48

Scouting report: Miami won all four meetings last year but the rosters for both squads are vastly different. The Heat, the third-worst shooting team in the NBA (41.8 percent), are also the most team aggressive in the league, attempting 44.2 shots within 10 feet of the basket. The Bulls began the day Wednesday ranked 29th in the NBA in defensive field goal percentage within 10 feet of the hoop (57.6 percent).

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