One returns from a week’s vacation in Europe with photographs, memories, a lighter bank account and also fresh perspective.
In our time in Paris we noticed the biggest sports presence on the famed Champs-Elysees boulevard was a massive two-story retail store for Paris Saint-German, the soccer club. In local shops you saw stuffed-doll likenesses of the team’s ponytailed star, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. All over the city were banners trumpeting the upcoming Tour de France.
Didn’t hear the word “LeBron” spoken for a blessed week, even in the midst of the NBA Finals, in a city where baseball and the upcoming NFL season hold little or no interest. It was refreshing to see with wider eyes and be reminded that every spot on the globe has its own passion in sports, its own teams, stars and stories.
Swing back across the Atlantic to Miami and it’s pretty clear what has our attention in the summer of 2015.
We might wonder if Giancarlo Stanton will put up epic home run numbers or imagine if the Dolphins will finally be special again, but mostly what we wonder, right now, is whether Dwyane Wade will be leaving us.
It is complicated. It is about economics and about cold business and the warmth of loyalty seeking common ground. Everyone seems to hope Wade stays but also sees why the people running the Miami Heat might see his max-salary days in the past tense.
So let me uncomplicate this:
Find a way, Micky Arison and Pat Riley, to bend enough and spend enough to make sure the most important player in franchise history does not leave in acrimony and finish his Hall of Fame career elsewhere.
It might not be the most prudent business move, but it’s smart basketball. Also, it is fair. It is right.
Only Dan Marino is imbedded deeper in the heart of South Florida sports fans than Wade, a supposition made arguable, at least, by the fact D.Wade has helped deliver three more championship parades than Marino ever did.
LeBron James left us because Riley wouldn’t give him more power.
This is more about respect.
Is Riley really prepared to let Wade walk over a low-ball contract offer?
The Godfather’s Miami legacy teeters in the answer.
Few blamed Riley for James leaving. Heat fans crowed with silly, cartoon hatred as LeBron fell short in the recent Finals — his losing embraced as Miami winning.
This would be different.
The animus would find Riley and stain him if Wade left for the Cavaliers, Lakers, Knicks or whomever and the reason was seen as the club nickel-and-diming a player who deserved special consideration but got none.
There must be a compromise to build the bridge that spans the gulf. That sense of compromise and mutual willingness must be the starting point when the two sides meet in the coming days to begin sorting this out, or seeing it unravel.
It’s a mess right now, but so far the mess is just imagery. Posturing. Like Wade’s father showing up at a Cleveland church in a Cavs T-shirt. Or Wade’s son writing “Dedicated to the Heat” as his caption on a video of his father singing a Rihanna song titled, Bitch Better Have My Money.
Those things get overblown because the first shots in a war are fired on social media now, but the only fight that matters starts when Wade and the Heat meet face to face in the next few days.
That is when the outcome will be reconciliation, a new deal and smiles all around — or a bitter, unnecessary divorce. Hard to imagine any gray area there.
At issue is whether Wade, by July 1, will opt out of the final season of his contract and become a free agent, which presently seems likely.
Wade wants a new three-year contract worth around $60 million. The Heat would prefer Wade finish his current deal, which would pay him $16.1 million next season, and then sign for an additional two years at around $10 million per. That’s low-balling. In an NBA context, $10 million a year is close to an insult. It threatens to make the Heat’s franchise credo of “family” feel like a fraud.
Wade is worth what he seeks. He is worth it for all he has done, but this isn’t about pity money or a gratitude deal. He also is worth it because he remains, at 33, a premier guard and a major asset.
Look around. Goran Dragic has opted out. Luol Deng might leave. Chris Bosh is trying to come back from a major health scare. Hassan Whiteside still is unproven and could be gone after next season.
Wade is the steady, solid one in that bunch.
Riley’s plate is overflowing, I know. He must try to keep Dragic and Deng, secure Whiteside long-term and not drive Arison into Luxury Tax hell — all the while positioning the club financially to make a big free agent push for Kevin Durant, perhaps, in 2016.
Don’t forget Wade, though. In all of this planning and dealing and positioning and spending, Riley mustn’t forget the one man he owes the most.
To Miami and hopefully to the Heat, Dwyane Wade is not just another player, not just another cold business decision.