Rodney McGruder hasn’t had a chance to catchup with Dwyane Wade since he signed a lifetime contract with the Chinese apparel and sneaker company Li-Ning and returned home over the weekend from his 10-day, six city commercial tour through China.
But McGruder, who watched Wade lead the Miami Heat to its only playoff victory in April when he scored 28 points in 26 minutes in a Game 2 win in Philadelphia, does have an opinion about what the 36-year-old, 12-time All-Star should do after reportedly receiving a three-year, $25 million offer to play for the Zhejiang Golden Bulls next season.
“I hope he stays with us,” McGruder said Tuesday before he jumped in the pool at the Miami Beach Jewish Community Center and participated in the Heat’s Learn To Swim program, now in its 17th year.
“That’s his personal decision, but I would love to have him back.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
Wade, who told the Associated Press last week he would focus on reaching a decision about his future after returning home from his trip overseas, has a roster spot on the Heat being held open for him and longtime Heat veteran and locker room leader Udonis Haslem, 38.
But the money Miami is expected to dangle in front of Wade — a $5.3 million taxpayer exception — is obviously less than what the Golden Bulls are reportedly offering.
The Heat, with 12 of a possible 15 players under contract for next season, are $4 million over the NBA’s $123 million luxury tax and have looked to trade Hassan Whiteside, Tyler Johnson and Dion Waiters this summer to help shed salary.
Wade said earlier this summer his ‘only vision’ is playing in a Heat uniform should he return to the NBA. Part of that is because he wants to be closer to his sons, including 16-year-old Zaire, a budding young basketball star.
One benefit of playing overseas is that the Chinese Basketball Association plays a 38-game regular season from October to March and the playoffs run into the middle of April. The NBA plays an 82-game schedule that runs from September to April and the playoffs carry into June.
“I’ve got a sense that he wants to play in the NBA [based off of] when he came back to play for us [at the February trade deadline] and the things that he showed in the playoffs,” McGruder said. “I feel like you don’t even ask him if he wants to come back. It looks like he needs to come back. It shouldn’t even be a question. I’ll just leave that to him. I’m hoping for what I want. Who knows, though.”
▪ McGruder, who played in only 18 games last season after returning from a stress fracture in his left leg, said he’s looking forward to the start of training camp in September despite the heavy competition expected for minutes.
He’s one of six wings on the roster alongside Tyler Johnson, Wayne Ellington, Josh Richardson, Dion Waiters and Derrick Jones Jr.
“Summer is going fast. That’s a good thing,” said McGruder, who said he spent a week vacationing in Grand Cayman shortly after the Heat was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs and has been training and preparing for the season ever since.
“We’re going to compete,” McGruder continued of the fight for minutes. “Nothing is handed to you. You have to work for everything here. That’s what I love about the Miami Heat organization. If you work for it, [the job] will be yours. Just compete and whatever happens, happens.”
▪ McGruder said he’s spent most of the summer working out with Richardson.
“Everybody has been in there working out on their own,” McGruder said. “Me and J-Rich got the early shift. We go in there early. Last week we weren’t at the arena. We were moving around a little bit, worked out a few different places. We worked out at SLAM, the University of Miami. This week we’re back at the arena. We’re just grinding.”
▪ McGruder said he met up with Ellington for dinner recently after he signed a one-year, $6.27 million deal to remain with the Heat.
“It means a lot,” McGruder said of the return of Ellington, who set a franchise record for three-pointers last season. “I was excited. As soon as I found out I shot him a text and congratulated him. It’s great that he’s still around.”