Dwyane Wade has 24 million reasons to return to the Chicago Bulls next season.
But is that even enough?
The former Miami Heat guard, coming off the worst postseason performance of his career Friday, has a player option to return to the Bulls for $23.8 million. But if he opts out, the 35-year-old will not see nearly that much money, at least not next year. And maybe never.
Wade was asked about that option after he missed all but one of his 10 shots and scored two points – his lowest total in 172 playoff games – as the Bulls were eliminated at home Friday by the Celtics, 105-83, losing four straight in their opening-round series after winning the first two games.
“I’m far away from that now, just got through this 14th NBA season,” he told reporters.
The question now is, where will he play in his 15th season?
The story, naturally, about Wade’s future will center on his possible return to Miami. … that’s even if the Heat would welcome him back.
Wade bolted South Florida after 13 seasons last summer, shunning the Heat’s two-year, $40 million offer for two-years and $47 million from his hometown team, with that player option for 2017-18. The acrimony between Wade and president Pat Riley was real, although the two have said since that bad blood no longer exists.
But the move did not turn out as he expected with Wade at times showing his frustration with the Bulls’ struggles and the franchise’s decision to go to a youth movement.
Even good friend Jimmy Butler has said the decision to return is “weighing” on Wade.
And the ending could not have helped. A Bulls team that finished tied with the Heat at 41-41 and made the playoffs by holding the tie-breaker over Miami – Chicago won 2-of-3 in the season series – was 12-10 in games Wade missed, including a 7-4 stretch late in the season with Wade recovering from a fractured elbow.
And the icing, Chicago clearly missed point guard Rajon Rondo more than Wade, taking a 2-0 lead on the top-seeded Celtics before seeing the offense stall and dropping four in a row after Rondo was lost with a thumb injury.
“I definitely don’t regret my decision coming here,” Wade said during his exit interview on Saturday. “Options or not, I’m in a good situation to decide what I want to do.
“I have a great luxury where I don’t have to ring-chase, but I can. Or I can be a part of passing down my knowledge. Either way.”
If it were up to the Bulls, chances are they would do everything they could to persuade Wade to leave. Chicago clearly is in a youth movement and would love to have that money lopped off their payroll. One source close to the team said earlier this season the Bulls “would drive Wade to the airport” if he declined his option.
But even having made $180 million during his career – that does not include the millions upon millions in endorsements – Wade just might find $24 million too much to pass up no matter the Bulls’ grim outlook.
Perhaps the only reason Wade would consider leaving that money on the table was if the Bulls traded Butler, something the organization reportedly explored last summer and during the trade deadline.
Wade and Butler became BFFs and maybe thought of returning to a roster with a bunch of kids and sharing that role as the veteran presence with Rondo (if Chicago brings him back) might be enough that all the money in the world would not be worth the aggravation.
But if he leaves, what then? Considering how the Heat season unfolded and how close they believe they are to contending again, Miami probably isn’t willing to use a major portion of their $38 million on an aging erstwhile superstar, even one whose uniform number someday will hang in the rafters of AmericanAirlines Arena and who may even have his own statue in front of the building.
Wade’s 18.3 scoring average this season was the lowest since his rookie season and he shot a career low .434 from the floor. The playoffs were worse with career lows in scoring (15.0) and field goal percentage (.372).
Besides, at 25, Dion Waiters appears to be the much better option for Miami, depending on the cost.
Waiters would have to price himself out of the Heat’s comfort zone and Wade would have to take a major pay cut – and likely a reduced role – in 2017-18 and convince the Heat to help him recoup some of that money with a two-year deal to return.
“I’m an open-minded person,” Wade said Saturday.
But the chances are it won’t even get to that and Wade will take the Bulls money and run.