There’s one thought that followed Wayne Ellington during free agency this summer.
“Why would you ever leave something that’s been really good to you?” he kept thinking as he weighed his free agent options.
The Heat extended its offer of a one-year contract worth$6.3 million early in free agency, matching his salary from last season. The offer didn’t reflect the pay raise many expected him to get — not because he didn’t deserve it, but because of the Heat’s salary-cap situation and the looming threat of the punitive luxury tax.
Other teams actually extended offers that included more seasons and more money.
But as the days passed in July, the same thought kept running through Ellington’s head: “Why would you ever leave something that has been really good to you?”
“I knew what I wanted,” Ellington said this week after a training camp practice at FAU. “The Heat have always expressed that they wanted me back. It was just a weird summer. The offer was on the table early. It was more of me and my agent kind of waiting it out and seeing what was going on.”
Ellington decided to take the Heat’s $6.3 million offer to stay in the place he felt most comfortable. A team he has had two of the best seasons of his career with, as he’s coming off a year in which he averaged a career-high 11.2 points on 39.2 percent shooting from three-point range.
“I never wanted to leave,” said Ellington, who set a career-high and team record with 227 made three-pointers last season. “This is a place where I’ve been treated great, I feel like my skill set is valued, and I feel like my personality and who I am is valued. So there was never like any wavering with me ever wanting to leave or not be here. This is where I wanted to be.”
But the process wasn’t that easy. It took 12 days from the start of free agency for Ellington to accept the Heat’s offer.
Part of the delay was just taking time to gauge the market and weigh other offers. It also took awhile for Ellington to feel comfortable with the idea of a one-year deal, knowing that he will have to go through the free agent process again next year.
“It was tough signing a one-year deal, but the market was tough this past summer, and obviously I understood the situation that the team was in,” said Ellington, who has been a free agent or had a pending team option in his contract in each of the past six off seasons. “That’s just what it came down to. I’m confident that there are greater things later. So I was OK with signing back here for another year.”
One assurance Ellington has because he signed a one-year deal and has full Bird rights next summer — he can’t be traded this season without his permission. And even though the Heat is already capped out next off season, it can bring back Ellington because of those Bird rights that allow for a team to exceed the salary cap to re-sign a player.
In the end, Ellington just wants stability. After playing for seven different teams during the first nine seasons of his NBA career, he finally feels like he’s found a home in Miami.
“Family, of course, and then ultimately it boiled down to myself,” Ellington said when asked how he made his decision to return to Miami. “This is my 10th year, man,and I’ve played for a lot of teams. I wanted to be somewhere where I’m comfortable and where I feel valued. This is the place where that’s at for me.
“I love Miami, man. I’ve said that from the very beginning. I’ve been to a lot of places and this has felt the best to me and my family. I got my son, I got my wife. They love it, as well. We have our home here, so God willing next summer will be the same thing. We’ll still be here. This is where I want to be at.”