If everything goes as it’s expected to, Dwyane Wade is going to opt out of the final year of his contract with the Heat and become a free agent on July 1. He wants a bigger long-term contract than the Heat are currently willing to give him, and he’s indicated that he’s open to testing the market to see what’s out there, and possibly leaving the only team he’s played for in his 12 years in the NBA.
According to a new report by ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne and Brian Windhorst, Wade’s representatives and the Heat front office are planning a formal meeting this week to try to close the gap before Wade can test the market.
Wade has until next Monday to decide on whether he’s going to opt in for next season and earn $16.1 million or become an unrestricted free agent.
Wade and the Heat are currently far apart on their desires; the Heat would prefer for Wade to opt into the deal and Wade would prefer a new, richer and longer-term contract, sources said.
The sides have not formally spoken in some time. They had discussed a new contract for around $10 million per year for up to three years beyond his current deal, sources said.
For his part Wade has every right to feel like the Heat owe him the respect of a better offer than they’ve given him so far. He took a pay cut in 2010 to allow LeBron James and Chris Bosh to sign in Miami, and last summer opted out of the final two years and $41 million of his contract in order to help Pat Riley retool the roster while keeping the big three together. James left to sign with the Cavaliers, and Wade watched as the Heat gave Bosh a five-year max deal. He, meanwhile, signed a two-year, $31 million deal with a player option in the second season — essentially giving back $10 million that would have been his if he hadn’t opted out.
The Heat understandably don’t want to commit big long-term money to Wade at 33, with his injury history. He can’t be counted on to play more than 55 or 60 games a year anymore, even though he still contributes at an extremely high level when he does play. But taking the long view, the Heat’s hands are more or less tied here if they want to preserve the long-term health of their franchise. They’re widely expected to make a run at Kevin Durant when he hits free agency next summer, and the package of Riley’s reputation and the city of Miami is an attractive pitch for any big-time free agent. But a major selling point for the Heat has been the way they take care of their own — the way they stood behind Alonzo Mourning when he had various health problems during his playing career and gave him a front-office position after he retired. The way Udonis Haslem is seemingly headed on the same track once he retires, taking less money throughout his career to stay in Miami and becoming part of the fabric of the organization. Wade has made it clear that he wants to stay in Miami if the money is agreeable. If they let him, of all people, go over a few million dollars, how’s that going to look to future free agents? There has never been a more important player in Miami Heat history than Dwyane Wade, and the “we take care of our own” pitch falls apart if they lowball him again in free agency.
It has never before felt like Wade could leave the Heat, but it’s very much in play now. But both sides have too much invested in staying together to think they won’t get a deal done at some point.