Miami Heat

Dwyane Wade opts out of contract with Heat; Luol Deng opts in

Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade reacts after a play during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Saturday, February 21, 2015
Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade reacts after a play during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Saturday, February 21, 2015 El Nuevo Herald

Posturing over, the real work now begins between Dwyane Wade and the Heat to hammer out a new deal and extend the superstar’s career in Miami.

Both sides seem to want the same thing, but getting there might not be easy.

Dwyane Wade was expected to forgo the final year of his contract Monday and become a free agent on Wednesday.

He had until midnight to inform the Heat he was opting in, but it was reported by ESPN on Monday afternoon that Wade would instead enter free agency. The Heat, not to mention the entire city of Miami, had been preparing itself for that decision for weeks.

Along the way to free agency, Wade dropped some big hints that he isn’t happy with the Heat, which would have preferred for Wade to opt into his contract.

He was set to make $16.1 million for next season. Wade now will seek a multiple-year deal with the Heat while also potentially exploring his options elsewhere.

Two suitors might be the Dallas Mavericks and Milwaukee Bucks.

After acquiring Lance Stephenson from the Charlotte Hornets, the Los Angeles Clippers would be a doubtful fit for Wade, but don’t rule out the Los Angeles Lakers just yet despite L.A. drafting D’Angelo Russell last week.

Any move by Wade despite re-signing with the Heat would, of course, be devastating for not only fans of the team but also the Heat’s chances of competing for a championship next season. With Wade, the Heat would be a legitimate contender. Without him, coach Erik Spoelstra would be offensively deficient for the second season in a row.

Wade is projected not only as the Heat’s primary scoring option for next season, but also the team’s top playmaker.

Center Hassan Whiteside was at his best when paired with Wade last season, and Wade’s limited time with point guard Goran Dragic revealed glimpses of greatness.

Heat president Pat Riley said last Thursday that keeping Wade is a priority, but it’s unclear how much the Heat would be willing to pay the shooting guard, who is 33 years old. It is believed that Wade would accept a three-year deal for $60 million, but that number might limit the Heat’s options beyond next season.

The Heat would like to make a splash during free agency next summer when the league’s salary cap is expected to rise by more than $20 million. The Heat also would need to create room for Whiteside, who is entering the final year of his minimum deal.

DENG RETURNING

News of Wade’s free agency on Monday tempered the excitement of Luol Deng’s contract decision. Earlier in the day, Deng informed the Heat that he would exercise the player option on the final year of his contract.

Deng is set to make $10.1 million next season and be the team’s starting small forward. The Miami Herald first broke the news on Twitter of Deng’s return to the team. Deng, 30, was the Heat’s most reliable player last season, starting 72 games and averaging 14.0 points and 5.1 rebounds. He shot 46.9 percent from the field and played inspired defense throughout the season.

His field-goal percentage was his best since the 2007-08 season.

Deng had the option of becoming a free agent, but the chance to play with the Heat and compete for a championship outweighed the security of another contract. He will be a free agent after next season.

In addition to starting at small forward next season, Deng also is expected to help mentor Heat draft pick Justise Winslow, who was introduced by the Heat on Monday with a news conference at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Riley and Spoelstra joined Winslow for his introductory media appearance, and both the team president and coach glowed with excitement to have the young and athletic wing in Miami.

Related stories from Miami Herald

  Comments