With the start of free agency looming and the market running low on superstars, rumors regarding potential big-money moves and inevitable paydays have dominated this week’s NBA headlines. But while some of those rumors have come as absolutely no surprise, the same can’t be said for rumors involving Dwyane Wade’s possible departure from the Miami Heat.
Currently at the end of a one-year deal worth $20 million, Wade has been the heart and soul of the Heat since joining the NBA as a member of the 2003 LeBron James-led draft class, and his departure would instantly force the franchise to consider rebuilding. But Wade’s value has always gone far beyond the basketball court, and losing one of the city’s most beloved figures would also do a tremendous amount of damage to the morale of Miami’s fan-base.
According to ESPN, talks between Wade and his employers have mirrored last summer’s rocky negotiations and the future hall-of-famer has told his representatives that he fully intends to play the free-agent field when the annual cash-driven season begins on July 1. Entering the offseason, Wade told ESPN that he was hoping for this summer’s negotiations to end on a much more positive note.
”I hope that everything is quiet and works out the way I want it to. But I have no control over that, as much as people might think,” said Wade. ”It’s a lot of moving parts in free agency. I’m not worried about it.”
While Wade’s comments may have temporarily calmed the waters of Heat-related worry, the recent reports of his potential departure are the last thing that Miami’s many hoop heads wanted to hear.
Six weeks ago, Wade and the Heat took the floor for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals against the Toronto Raptors with a real shot at meeting the Cleveland Cavaliers for a place in the NBA Finals. Miami may have lost that game by 27 points, but the Heat’s playoff run provided evidence of their future potential, and as far as anyone is concerned, Wade is still the team’s unquestioned leader and the most valuable player on the roster.
Heading into last season, both the franchise and its fan-base weren’t really sure what to expect from their longtime leader. In each of the previous four seasons, injuries had limited Wade to less than 70 games, and with LeBron long-gone and a pair of NBA titles won by a team that no longer exists, nobody knew if Wade even wanted to carry the Heat.
But despite barely surpassing the 70-game plateau with appearances in 74 regular season contests, Wade averaged a respectable 19 points, 4.6 assists, and 4.1 rebounds per game, leading the Heat to a 48-win effort and a Southeast Division title. And when it came to the post-season, Wade’s leadership, combined with averages of 21.4 points, 5.6 assists, and 4.3 rebounds, left little doubt about his future as one of the league’s elite.
Along with his well-deserved reputation as an all-around good guy, Wade’s presence was responsible for forcing LeBron James to ”Take his talents to South Beach,” and Chris Bosh to abandon the Raptors, directly resulting in a pair consecutive NBA rings.
Although irreplaceable, Wade is only one of the nine free agents on Miami’s roster including re-energized forward Luol Deng and super center Hassan Whiteside, and the franchise is also planning to pursue the services of Kevin Durant — the one player who actually could replace Wade.
During last summer’s unproductive negotiations between Wade and the Heat, the Miami Herald‘s Barry Jackson alluded to a salary-related issue that’s likely the cause of this summer’s problems between the two parties.
”The Heat and Dwyane Wade have been discussing potential resolutions of his contract situation and there’s a significant difference in what both parties believe he should be paid for the next three seasons, according to multiple sources.”
Regardless of the reason, Wade’s departure would obviously tear a hole right through the heart of the entire Heat organization. Only Durant’s departure from the Oklahoma City Thunder would do more damage to an NBA franchise, and if Wade does leave, neither the team nor the city of Miami will recover anytime soon.
[Photo By-Steeter Lecka/Getty Images]