MIAMI – Pat Riley and Dwyane Wade have not had conversations about the Heat legend’s future, but Riley said now is the time to start to “focus” on all these decisions that impact next season.
Wade, 36, completed his 15th season in the league in 2017-18 after returning to Miami in a deadline day deal with the Cavaliers. He was effective coming off the bench and was one of the Heat’s two best players along with Goran Dragic during their short stay in the playoffs, averaging 16.6 points on 44.3 percent shooting in the five games.
Wade said following the Heat’s Game 5 loss in Philadelphia he will decide this summer if he will return, but if he does it will be with the Heat. He has not put a timetable on his decision.
Riley said he and Wade have “shared texts” and that Wade has “communicated on a regular basis with a lot of people in the organization but nothing has been decided with Dwyane. We want to have Dwyane back obviously but there’s been no discussion about next year.”
Wade has been busy this summer, jetting around the world, working on business projects and, yes, working out to stay prepared in case he returns. His most recent comments on this future came on Fox Sports Radio in an interview with former teammate, Caron Butler.
“If I decide to come back and play the game of basketball, I would love for it, obviously, to be in Miami,” he said. “It’s just crazy because in this league you never know what will happen. I never thought I would leave Miami. Caron knows that I thought I would be here forever, but things happen.”
Wade left Miami two summers ago and returned after one season in Chicago and a little more than half a season in Cleveland. He played on a minimum contract last season after agreeing to a buyout on his $23.8 million salary with the Bulls. Wade reportedly will seek the Heat’s $5.4 million mid-level exception if he decides to return for a 16th season.
But don’t mistake that for Pat Riley sitting on a yacht off some tropical island and a “closed” sign being hung on the offices at 601 Biscayne Blvd.
The Heat certainly are open for business as the NBA’s offseason officially kicks off with Thursday’s draft and then hits a frenzied pace 10 days later with the start of free agency. Somehow, the Heat will manage to join the party – they seemingly always do – but will they become bystanders or can they find a way to become the life of the party?
Recent history has not been kind to the Heat. Miami has entered the last two summers full of hope and optimism just from getting sit-downs with the two most coveted free agents – Kevin Durant in 2016 and Gordon Hayward in 2017.
Admittedly a longshot both years – more so with Durant – Miami had to settle for Plan B, in both cases. In 2016 – and after losing Dwyane Wade – that meant basically starting over by offering one-year deals to lower-level free agents and develop its young core of Hassan Whiteside, Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow and Tyler Johnson. Last summer that meant holding onto free agents from the previous summer that showed promise – James Johnson, Dion Waiters and Wayne Ellington – and picking up a nice supplemental part, which the Heat did with the solid signing of Kelly Olynyk.
Which brings us to the summer of 2018.
After watching Durant being convinced to chase rings at Golden State and Brad Stevens convincing Hayward to turn back the clock to his college days in Boston, could the Heat be looking at having failed to meet their highest expectations for the third consecutive summer?
Miami has been as much a victim of its own success and Riley’s reputation as anything else. Few teams ever even make the final cut when it comes to the summer’s biggest catch, but the Heat seem to every year. They did in 2010 and capitalized, leading to two titles and four consecutive Finals appearances, which raised the bar even higher. They did again the last two summers, although the outcome was far less satisfying than 2010.
For every LeBron James and Chris Bosh there is a Kevin Durant and Gordon Hayward. And while some may look at it as if Riley is losing his touch, just by getting in the door every year shows his reputation remains intact.
Throwing a bag of championship rings on the table still resonates.
So how will 2018 play out? The Heat enter this offseason in a much different place with no flexibility and few assets to offer as major trade bait. And this free agency class is top heavy with Durant, James, Chris Paul, Paul George and DeMarcus Cousins leading the way, with James, George and Cousins the realistic choices to switch teams.
And even without anything to offer, Riley still likely will get a sit-down with James. But getting in the door and closing the deal are two very different things. The only way James returns to Miami is for Riley and Andy Elisburg to pull off a stunning sign-and-trade that would involve convincing James the Heat are on the cusp of contending and then convincing Cavs owner Dan Gilbert to once again deal with Riley.
There is a better chance of Cleveland becoming the No. 1 tourist destination in the country than that happening.
Players like Bradley Beal, DeMar DeRozan, C.J. McCollum, John Wall and Andrew Wiggins to name a few could be explored. Any one of them would immediately become the best player on the Heat if acquired.
Yes, the pressure is on Riley to improve this team. The optics of bringing back this roster, one that won 44 games and lasted just five games in playoffs, intact would not be good. But Riley may have no choice and he raised that possibility following the season,.
I expect Riley to pull off some kind of deal to shake up this team even if it means putting the franchise in a better position for the future. Making a significant move, though, will be very difficult. Heat fans may be left wanting for more – for the third consecutive year – but even Riley may not be able to work that magic this summer.