Dwyane Wade knew there was going to be a time in his career when he was going to be relegated to coming off the bench.
Most just didn’t expect the 12-time All-Star and the best player in Heat history to make that determination after only three games with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Tuesday night in a come-from-behind win over the Chicago Bulls, Wade, 35, came off the bench – by choice – for the first time in a long time and had 11 points (5-of-7 shooting), three rebounds, four assists, a steal and a block in 19 minutes.
It’s a role Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said he and Wade discussed prior to him signing with the Cavs and one Wade was quick to realize would probably be a better fit for him so he could be in a more featured role. It certainly looked like a better fit for Wade, who struggled mightily in his first three Cavs starts, averaging 5.7 points, 2.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 2.7 turnovers and shooting 28 percent from the field.
After Miami’s win over the Atlanta Hawks on Monday, Heat point guard Goran Dragic, who has remained close to Wade since he left the Heat for Chicago after the 2016 season, said he wasn’t worried about Wade’s rough start in Cleveland.
“He's going to figure it out,” Dragic said. “He’s a Hall of Famer, All-Star player. It’s always tough the first couple weeks when you get to a new team, new system. But, we all know what kind of player he is. Maybe he’s going to lead that second unit now. You never know.
“He’s got so many games behind him, so much experience that he knows what he’s doing. He knows what’s good for the team. Those guys, LeBron, him, they talk. They’ll figure it out.”
Wade, by the way, is sitting out Wednesday’s game against the Nets because of a bruised left knee.
Here’s a look at the list of players from the last two seasons no longer with the Heat and what they’ve done since:
Luke Babbitt: After starting a career-high 55 games and making a career-high 87 three-pointers on 41.4 percent shooting, the Heat simply didn’t have a spot on the roster for 6-9 forward, who signed a one-year, $1.9 million league minimum deal with the Hawks. So far, Babbitt is averging 13.6 minutes, 5.3 points and shooting 30 percent from three in four games off the bench for Atlanta.
Chris Bosh: The 33-year-old, 11-time All-Star, whose career was cut short by blood clots, has remained relatively quiet since he and the Heat finally parted ways this summer. He’s collecting all of the $52 million owed to him over the final two years of his last deal with the Heat, though it doesn’t count against the team’s salary cap.
Josh McRoberts: After three injury-plagued seasons with the Heat, Miami was able to trade the 6-10, 240-pound big man to Dallas this summer to help create the cap space needed to pickup Wayne Ellington’s $6.2 million option. So far, McRoberts hasn’t played a game with the Mavericks yet, citing lower extremity issues. The Heat is very familiar with those extremities and McRoberts sitting on the bench. The only appearance McRoberts has made thus far was on Charles Barkley’s “Who He Play For?” segment on TNT.
Willie Reed: The 6-11, 245-pound center had a career season with the Heat last season (5.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 0.7 blocks) and then gambled he would make a lot more money this summer from another team than had he stayed with the Heat. The gamble didn’t pay off and Reed signed a one-year, minimum deal with the Los Angeles Clippers. So far, Reed has averaged 8.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 12.3 minutes per contest for the unbeaten Clippers (3-0). Maybe his big pay day will happen next summer. Miami plays at the Clippers on Nov. 5.
Derrick Williams: After making as many regular season appearances (25) for the Cavaliers as he did for the Heat last season, the 6-8 forward played in eight playoff games for Cleveland on the way to the Finals and averaged 2.6 points. But he’s not on an NBA roster anymore.
Chris Andersen: Traded by the Heat on Feb. 16, 2016 to Memphis to help create the cap space needed to sign Joe Johnson, Birdman has appeared in just 32 games since and hasn’t played in the NBA since December 2016 when he went down with a season-ending ACL tear for Cleveland. Now 39, it’s clear Andersen’s playing days are behind him.
Mario Chalmers: After sitting out the 2016-17 season recovering from an Achilles injury, Chalmers, fourth on the Heat’s all-time list for games played, made his comeback with the Memphis Grizzlies (they acquired him from the Heat via trade in Nov. 2015) this season and made national headlines Monday night when he tripped up MVP runner-up James Harden, leading to a scrum on the court. In three games this season, Chalmers, 31, is averaging 8.7 points (on 30 percent field goal shooting), 3.7 assists, 1.3 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 24.3 minutes. Chalmers signed a partially guaranteed one-year deal with Memphis this summer.
Luol Deng: Pat Riley once called the 6-9, 220-pound forward one of the most important free agent signings in franchise history the summer LeBron James returned to Cleveland. After two solid seasons with the Heat including a run to the second round of the playoffs in 2016, Deng, who is in the second year of a four-year, $72 million with the Lakers, is no longer in Los Angeles’ rotation according to coach Luke Walton. Deng, 32, played just 13 minutes in the season opener and will not play moving forward “without something happening,” Walton told the Orange County Register on Monday.
James Ennis: The 6-7, 210-pound forward spent two seasons with the Heat before Miami traded him along with Mario Chalmers to Memphis and now former Heat assistant David Fizdale is finding good use for him. Ennis, 27, had 14 points and 11 rebounds in Monday’s win over the Rockets and is now a regular starter for the Grizzlies. “James is huge. I told him ‘You’re like the new T.A. You’re doing everything it takes to win,’” point guard Michael Conley told the Commerical Appeal, comparing Ennis to former teammate Tony Allen. “He knows his importance to this team and it’s showing. He had a great summer. He’s in great shape. We needed this from him and he’s going to continue to do it.”
Gerald Green: The well-traveled 6-7, 205-pound former Slam Dunk champion enjoyed one of his better seasons with the Heat in 2015-2016, averaging 8.9 points in 69 games. After coming off the bench for 49 games in Boston last season and averaging 5.6 points per game, Green was cut by the Milwaukee Bucks this preseason and is still looking for work in the league.
Joe Johnson: After helping the Heat reach the second round of the playoffs in 2016, Johnson, 36, signed a two-year, $22 million deal with the Utah Jazz where he has a decent role off the bench. Johnson played in 78 games last season and averaged 9.2 points (43.6 percent shooting, 41.1 percent from three), 3.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 23.6 minutes per game. This season, he’s averaging 9.5 points (48 percent shooting), 2.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 20.7 minutes.
Jarnell Stokes: Originally acquired in the Mario Chalmers trade to Memphis, Stokes earned D-League MVP honors and led Sioux Falls to the 2016 D-League title. Between all that, he’s bounced around the NBA with the Grizzlies, Spurs and Nuggets, playing a total of 28 games. The 6-7, 250-pound forward is currently not on an NBA roster.
Amar’e Stoudemire: The end to the 2015-16 season wasn’t pleasant with Stoudemire upset he didn’t get to help the Heat much during its playoff run. But the truth is his days in the NBA were pretty much done. The Heat got 36 starts out of him as a placeholder during the regular season. After signing a one-day contract with the Knicks on July 26, 2016, Stoudemire went to play with Hapoel Jerusalem, the team he co-owns in the Israeli Basketball Premier League and earned All-EuroCup Second Team honors before helping the team win the Israeli League championship. Stoudemire announced his retirement from basketball on Sept 1.
Beno Udrih: His greatest contribution was leaving money on the table in Feb. 2016 to help the Heat sign Joe Johnson and avoid the luxury tax. Cut at the end of the 2016 preseason, Udrih spent the 2016-17 season in Detroit, where he played in 39 games, averaged 5.8 points, 1.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists. He’s no longer on an NBA roster, cut by the Pistons at the end of this year’s preseason.
Briante Weber: The Heat initially wasn’t happy when Weber, a budding young point guard the team had invested time and energy investing in, was plucked off Sioux Falls’ roster last season and signed to a 10-day contract by the Golden State Warriors. But Miami had its opportunity this summer to make a play for Weber after he was waived by Charlotte in late July and didn’t bother. He’s now played for the Warriors, Hornets, Lakers (this preseason) and now the Rockets after singing a two-way contract with Houston on Tuesday.