As Dwyane Wade enjoys this second journey with the Heat, he does it knowing these could be his final months as an NBA player.
Wade, 36, told me in recent days that for the first time in his career, he is genuinely undecided whether he wants to play beyond this season. Wade has said that he will only play for the Heat, if he continues his career beyond this season.
“I don’t know,” Wade said. “I have told everybody around me that I am taking it after this season and go from there. It’s the first year I’ve ever went into the summer with that mind-set. I always went into it as a free agent or opting out of a deal to get another deal. This is the first summer I can say I’m just going into the summer and see how I feel and see the position this organization is in and go from there. I’m not really concerned with it, honestly. I’m cool with whatever I decide to do. It will be my decision.”
Does he need to determine, after this season, if he even has a desire to play more?
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“Definitely,” he said. “You definitely have to check that. A lot of things go into it. Do you want to put that same grind in again? As you get older, it’s a different kind of grind to get ready for games, to get your body ready. [And] can you mentally go through another year and give it your all and not be checked out in the middle of that season?
“[Udonis Haslem] always talked about, as you get older, you take it year by year. But this is the first summer that I will go into the summer and say I ain’t got much hair left, but I’m going to let my hair down and look at everything as a whole, my family and basketball. Being back here helps that situation for me, makes the decision even easier since now that I’m back already. And sit down with Pat [Riley] and Micky [Arison] and everybody and see what’s best for me and go from there.”
If Wade agrees to play for the minimum $2.4 million season, only $1.5 million would count against the salary cap. It’s possible, though less likely, that Miami would give Wade a chunk of its salary cap exception — either a $5.5 million taxpayer midlevel exception next summer or a full $8.8 million midlevel exception depending on whether Miami is a tax team.
Wade could raise his position on several all-time NBA lists by continuing to play. He already is second all time among NBA guards with 835 blocked shots, behind only Michael Jordan’s 893. If he blocks shots the rest of this season and next season at the rate he has done this season, he will pass Jordan by about 10 blocks by the end of next season.
Though that won’t drive his decision about whether to retire, he said rising to No. 1 on that list “would definitely be the most meaningful for me” among remaining statistical possibilities.
“Being in the same company as Michael Jordan in anything is meaningful,” he said. “[I’m] always taking pride in being someone who’s 6-4 and being able to affect the game up in the air, before they get in the air and affect it that way. I get way more excited with blocks than getting a dunk right now.”
Wade is 31st on the NBA’s all-time scoring list (21,873 regular-season points) and is on pace to finish this season about 80 points behind No. 30 Clyde Drexler.
If he replicates this season’s scoring pace for two more seasons, he would pass Drexler, Elgin Baylor, Adrian Dantley and Robert Parish and would be 27th, just 50 or so points away from — of all people — Charles Barkley, who starred with Wade on cellphone commercials years ago but has been stingy in praise of Wade in recent years.
But Wade would need to score at his current pace for three more years after this one — which seems awfully ambitious — to move him past Allen Iverson into 25th, near No. 24 Ray Allen. And Kevin Durant, about 1,400 points behind Wade, would figure to pass Wade at some point. So top 25 on the all-time scoring list seems unlikely for Wade.
Among active players, Dirk Nowitzki is sixth all time in NBA scoring, LeBron James seventh, Carmelo Anthony 21st, Vince Carter 23rd and Wade 31st. Pau Gasol is 39th, 1,252 points behind Wade, and Durant 41st.
“I wanted to get to 20,000 [points] and I accomplished that,” he said. “Now it’s just putting the whipped cream on. I know I didn’t play as many games as a lot of [others]. I missed a lot of games that would make it tough to crack that top 25, but I just wanted to really get to 20,000 [points] and from there, see where it goes.
“I am humbled and amazed by being able to pass some of the people I passed. I just passed Larry Bird. Wow. When I got drafted here, I never set out to do that.”
Wade ranks 52nd all-time in NBA assists but could rise to 38th if he maintains this season’s assist rate for two more years, passing such players as Kevin Garnett, Allen Iverson, Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bird and Sam Cassell.