When Miami Heat president Pat Riley used the fifth pick of the 2003 NBA Draft to get Dwyane Wade it didn’t occur to anyone that he would become the face of the franchise.
No one saw him becoming the youngest NBA Finals MVP in 2006 against the Dallas Mavericks until Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs got the award in 2014.
No one saw him masterminding along with Riley in 2010 what has become the biggest free agency grab in the history of South Florida sports.
Most of all no one saw him become the greatest player to put on a Heat jersey.
In that time the relationship between the Heat and Wade has become strong and in some eyes unbreakable, that is until now. Various reports have come out stating that there is a sizeable money gap between both parties has emerged in contract negotiations for an extension. Wade still is technically under contract with Miami until 2016 but does have a player option in which he can choose to become a free agent this summer.
Given how the Heat’s salary structure is at currently this situation is tough to navigate if money is the main sticking point.
When it comes to the Heat’s point of view all signs point to the 2016 free agent class when the NBA salary cap is expected to go as high as $89 million. Riley has been known to always be looking ahead to big free agent classes and has tried to maintain as much cap flexibility as possible for them. If Wade opts in along with forward Luol Deng this summer the priority will be re-signing guard Goran Dragic, who was acquired via trade. Dragic will likely command close to max money in the market as Miami will be competing with teams like the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers for his services. The advantage the Heat have with Dragic is that he likes the city and likes to play with Wade as he hasn’t had a backcourt mate if his caliber.
If the Heat re-sing Dragic the wild card then becomes the emergence of center Hassan Whiteside. When Miami signed Whiteside to a two-year deal in 2014 the dramatic rise in his play was not seen as a possibility. Now that Whiteside has proven he can be a starting player in the NBA the question is can he keep improving to the point where he will command max dollars. If that is the case and Miami makes the push to re-sign Whiteside that leaves little cap room, even with the expected rise, for the team to after players like Kevin Durant.
The Heat’s position in the negotiations makes sense given the circumstances, but so does Wade’s position.
There is no question that Wade has become the greatest player in Heat history and has arguably surpassed Miami Dolphins great Dan Marino as the best player in the history of South Florida sports. He has become a staple in the community and has shown loyalty to the Heat throughout the years. In that time he has never been the highest player on the team even as he became the face of the franchise. He has stepped aside in that department for players like LeBron James in 2010 and Chris Bosh in 2014. The manner in which that has occurred, particularly in 2014 can leave the impression that the Heat take Wade’s desire to help for granted.
Then there is the possibility that Wade’s next contract might be his last. Wade’s style of play has made him prone to injuries and while the Heat have taken steps to limit his wear & tear over the last few seasons time catches up to everyone. With that in mind & given what he has done for the franchise Wade has done enough to get back some of the money he sacrificed in his career.
More than likely the Heat and Wade will work things out. While most media have already treated the situation as Wade being gone from Miami the fact that’s ignored is that contract negotiations are already happening. That alone should speak to the mutual interest in both parties wanting to stay together.
But just like with James in 2014, anything can change at the drop of a hat.