MIAMI — Dwyane Wade is now a member of the Cavaliers, and the Heat are moving on.
But it seems like Wade still hasn’t gotten past the summer of 2014, a time that is still fresh in his mind. During his introductory press conference in Cleveland on Friday, Wade spoke about LeBron James leaving for the Cavaliers in 2014 and the Heat suddenly became a part of the discussion.
There was the conversation regarding money Wade has sacrificed to be on winning teams over his career, which he estimates is “almost $30 million.”
Then there was talk about the summer of 2014, when James left Miami for Cleveland and the Heat were left scrambling. With James gone, Miami ended up signing Chris Bosh to a maximum contract and bringing in free agent Luol Deng on a two-year, $20 million deal.
Wade ended up signing a two-year, $31.125 million contract that summer with the Heat that included a player option for the 2015-16 season. This came after Wade exercised the early termination option on his Heat contract earlier that summer, walking away from a deal that would have paid him $41 million over the next two seasons to help give Miami some flexibility in case James and Bosh both decided to return.
“By opting out of a deal, if we’re all coming back together, then we’ll figure out how much money we’re willing to take,” Wade said Friday when asked about the summer of 2014. “If LeBron makes a decision to go back [to Cleveland], you take care of your guys. I wasn’t a part of that, getting taken care of. Everybody wants to paint that on LeBron, but LeBron made a decision for him. It was Miami’s decision not to give me the money they gave me. Simple as that. They gave it to Chris and Luol, they didn’t give it to me. But I kept professional and kept playing basketball until I just decided to walk away from it.”
It’s important to note that the Heat did later sign a 33-year-old Wade to a one-year, $20 million contract in the 2015 offseason.
Heat president Pat Riley’s plan was to take advantage of Wade’s “Larry Bird rights,” addressing his contract on a season-by-season basis. Miami owned Wade’s Bird rights because he played three or more consecutive seasons for the Heat without being waived or changing teams as a free agent. With Wade’s Bird rights, Miami could have exceeded the salary cap to re-sign him.
“Well, if you’re rolling over year to year, and you’re looking at the free-agent class, then having your best and most important player at a time in his career, he’s 35 years old, having him on a one-and-one, on a two-year deal, one-and-one, so if he does opt out then obviously the next year if there’s people out there in the market that you want that could come in under, and then you have that flexibility versus being locked into a three-year deal where you don’t,” Riley said last summer after Wade left to Chicago. “If you miss on somebody, Bird Rights is the golden pass here, for any veteran player. You don’t have to give players $20 million, $20 million, $20 million, you can give them $20 million, $8 million, $37 million, $25 million. What difference does it make?”
Still, Wade decided to walk away from the Heat, when he signed a two-year, $47 million deal with the Bulls last summer. After Wade and the Bulls reached an agreement on a buyout last week, he signed a one-year, $2.3 million veteran’s minimum contract to reunite with James in Cleveland.
Does Wade believe he would be a member of the Cavaliers if the summer of 2014 would have unfolded differently?
“Probably not,” Wade answered Friday, hinting that he would still be with the Heat.
But there’s no looking back now.
Wade is now in Cleveland and the Heat are building around a new core of players. It’s time to move on.