Ethan J. Skolnick

With Kevin Durant unlikely, Dwyane Wade should be Heat’s priority

dsantiago@elnuevoherald.com

The meeting came, and the meeting went, and maybe Miami’s free agent fantasy went with it. Pat Riley wanted a whale and found one on shore in the Hamptons on Sunday morning, but all the whispers — as of late Sunday night — suggested Durant was more likely to be harpooned by the Thunder, Warriors or Celtics on Monday.

If that’s so, where does that leave the Heat?

Simply, trying to keep a mildly disappointing offseason, mainly for reasons beyond Riley’s control, from becoming a disastrous one. At this stage, resolution with Dwyane Wade — planning to start taking free agent meetings Tuesday or Wednesday — is all that separates one from the other.

Wade has been in Europe with his wife on a planned vacation, so do away with the notion that he was intentionally avoiding a Durant meeting; he was never included in that process, with the Heat’s innermost circle (ownership, the two top executives, coach Erik Spoelstra and ambassador Alonzo Mourning) handling recruiting.

Now, it’s clear the Heat needs to re-recruit Wade. According to multiple team and league sources, he was given some preliminary potential parameters but was essentially asked to wait for specific figures until the Hassan Whiteside and Durant situations played out.

That was likely largely logistical. Dallas and Portland made it known they would pursue Whiteside, and the center declared he wanted his situation settled quickly; that’s exactly what happened, as he struck a deal with Miami seven hours after free agency opened.

Meanwhile, Durant was setting his own agenda, holding court from June 30 (with Oklahoma City, which was allowable) until Sunday, with the Heat essentially getting the last word.

So, yes, you can understand why the Heat hoped Wade would stand by. It just might not have been wise, another odd misread of someone with whom the organization should be intimately familiar after 13 years. Wade hasn’t just given up money. He has repeatedly given up rank. He is the franchise face, for all time, and yet frequently seems to be sacrificing his standing for someone else.

It was one thing to give up shots and cash to close the deal for pal LeBron James in 2010, while also working with James and Chris Bosh to accommodate his most trusted teammate, Udonis Haslem, someone Wade wants the Heat to re-sign again.

And the organization argues that his agent’s desire to get the most possible for another client, Bosh, is part of what has squeezed Wade financially since.

But last offseason felt strange, when Wade had to wait in line behind Goran Dragic, even if Dragic did give up a little for Wade. And this offseason actually feels stranger, after both sides insisted they wouldn’t repeat last summer’s uncertainty and acrimony — most media and fans figured this had all quietly been figured out.

It also comes after Wade fulfilled his promises, reshaping his body, missing only seven games because of injury and surging in the postseason.

So what is Wade worth?

Nearing age 35?

In the incredibly inflated NBA economy?

Well, consider the following …

Bradley Beal, after missing 46 games the past two seasons, got $128 million over five years to stay in Washington. DeMar DeRozan, after shooting 39 percent in the playoffs, got $139 million over five years to remain in Toronto. Evan Fournier received $85 million over five years after one modest breakout season for Orlando.

Jamal Crawford — in whom the Heat had interest — snagged $42 million over three years to keep his Clippers’ sixth man spot.

Evan Turner, somewhat less erratic than he once was, got $70 million over four years to move to Portland, and the well-traveled Courtney Lee received $50 million over four years to relocate to New York. The solid but unspectacular Arron Afflalo went to the Kings for $25 million over two years. The oft-injured Eric Gordon got a backup gig for $53 million over four years. E’Twaun Moore — yes, E’Twuan Moore — went to the Pelicans for $34 million over four years.

Combined salary?

Roughly $626 million over 36 seasons, or $17.4 million per season.

Combined All-Star selections? Two. Both by DeRozan.

Wade has been selected 12 times. He’s older than all but Crawford but still superior to all but DeRozan, and that depends on the night. With Bosh’s status more promising but still not settled, Wade’s still the top player on this team, a team looking thin as it is, with starting forwards Luol Deng and Joe Johnson leaving, and Tyler Johnson signing an offer sheet with Brooklyn that might be madness to match.

The only thing thinner? The list of available free agents. Dion Waiters and J.R. Smith, neither a pillar of professionalism, are all that’s left among two guards beyond Wade.

So this is something the Heat must get done, even if it means swallowing hard, and not only giving Wade the rest of the cap space (roughly $19 million) but also the three seasons he’d prefer.

That won’t help the whale hunting in 2017. But it would be even worse to let the Heat’s all-time big fish get away.

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