How blindsided were the Heat by Dwyane Wade’s exit? Based on Pat Riley’s comments at the end of last season, they never saw it coming.
Even Wade was probably a little surprised that his free agency ended with him going to the Chicago Bulls, but he spoke carefully about his future in May.
“I think I’ve been around long enough to know not to expect anything going into the summer,”’ he said. “So, at this time I don’t expect anything. I have no idea.”
When asked specifically about going into free agency, he was hopeful it would be an easy process, but left plenty of wiggle room about leaving.
“I don’t know what to anticipate,” he said. “I don’t pay myself, so I can’t anticipate anything being smooth. I hope everything is quiet and everything works out the way I want it to, whatever that is. But I have no control over that, not as much as people would think. You have no control over how that necessarily is going to go. It’s a lot of moving parts in free agency.
“So we’ll see how it goes. I’m not worried about it at all and I won’t until July. I’m going to enjoy my day or two off, and then when it’s time for me to focus on my free agency part of July, I will for sure do that. But I don’t know what to expect.”
Riley, meanwhile, seemed to think Wade’s return was automatic. Not only did he depict it that way in May, but the reported details of the team’s negotiations with Wade indicated that as well.
Coming off an All-Star season in which he averaged 19 points, 4.6 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game, Wade got nothing but praise from Riley at the end of the year. He called it a better season than any Wade had during the Big Three era and left no ambiguity about his intent to retain the face of the franchise.
“We’ll sit down and talk about that with Dwyane,” he said. “He wants to win, I think, as much as he wants to do anything. Compensation to a player is not just a way to get paid and live your life; compensation, to a player, is about recognition and respect and place. We know where he belongs.
“We’ll get on to all of that stuff. We’ve thought about it, but we haven’t really thought about it. When we get down to discuss it with Dwyane, it will be predicated on a lot of factors. He’s a lifer. What he’s done in this city over the last 13 years is irreplaceable. We’ll do the right thing. There’s no doubt.”
He even made a joke Wade being set to make so much money this summer that he’d be able to pay Riley, and laughed about keeping track of Wade’s weight during the offseason.
All that lightheartedness dissipated as July 1 neared and it became clear the Heat had Wade no higher than third on their priority list. They stepped up immediately with a maximum contract for Hassan Whiteside and asked Wade to be patient while they chased Kevin Durant.
When the Durant dream fell through, the Heat went back to repair things with Wade. For as much as Wade talked about going home in his initial comments after picking Chicago, it still seems like the right contract would’ve kept him in Miami. At the end, Wade played hardball with the Heat, and that was something Riley didn’t anticipate.