Miami is once again “Wade County”.
As a part of its massive NBA trade deadline fire sale, the Cleveland Cavaliers traded 14-year veteran and three-time NBA champion Dwyane Wade to the Miami Heat in exchange for a heavily-protected second round pick.
Wade signed with the Cavs this past September after receiving a buyout with his hometown Chicago Bulls. While his name still resonates around the league – and certainly around South Florida – Wade is averaging a career-low 11.2 points per game this season, coming off the bench in 43 of 46 games.
In spite of Wade’s very tangible physical limitations that come along with his age and the attrition of the amount of basketball he’s played in his career, his return to Miami was met with trumpeting fanfare from Heat fans.
— Miami Int'l Airport (@iflymia) February 9, 2018
— Carlos A. Gimenez (@MayorGimenez) February 8, 2018
Dwyane Wade is really a Miami HEAT player again pic.twitter.com/wJ1Jyx4iZ5
— Mario🎩 (@Smashed) February 8, 2018
There were even multiple billboard ads around the city of Miami, welcoming the 2006 NBA Finals MVP back to the Magic City.
When “Flash” elected to leave Miami after the 2015-16 season, it was not an amicable split. Wade, a free agent at the time, wanted a contract that would pay him in the ball park of $24 million per year, but Heat president Pat Riley was only ready to go as high as $20 million.
Wade balked at Miami’s proposed deal – especially given the $98 million the team had recently given to center Hassan Whiteside – and took his talents home to the Windy City, which drove a wedge between Riley and Wade.
Fences were mended between the two Heat lifers at the funeral for Wade’s – and many other current and former Miami Heat players – former agent Henry Thomas. Wade and Riley reportedly embraced one another without saying many words and essentially “squashed the beef”.
It was your quintessential “we good, bro?”.
“The hug that we embraced was real and it was all we needed,” Wade told reporters of the brief encounter with Riley at the funeral. “That’s it. That is all we both needed. I walked away and I felt better about everything, without even getting into anything.”
Riley also said he was ready to let bygones be bygones.
“For all of you who know me, warriors don’t live in the past. Life is now. And the future is waiting,” Riley said on a conference call. “Based on what happened with Dwyane and us the last couple of years, there’s no bitterness and no regrets.”
— J.T. Wilcox (@JTWilcoxSports) February 8, 2018
Heat fans are hoping that Wade’s return to Miami – reuniting with head coach Erik Spoelstra and a handful of players that were on the roster with him in 2015-16 – will go better than things went with Wade in Cleveland.
Many thought that Wade would help bolster the Cavaliers – who also traded Isaiah Thomas (Lakers), Channing Frye (Lakers), Derrick Rose (Utah), Jae Crowder (Utah) and Iman Shumpert (Sacramento) before the trade deadline Thursday – bench and aid in the efforts to appease LeBron James, who is expected to become an unrestricted free agent this coming summer.
Wade and James’ close relationship and championship memories seemed to do more harm than good in Cleveland though. When Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue inserted Wade into the starting lineup over JR Smith, it created a schism – ruffling Smith’s feathers since he had been in the Cavaliers’ starting lineup the previous two seasons.
Showing the maturity and leadership that comes along with being one of the NBA’s “old heads”, Wade told Lue he’d come off the bench and take a reduced role for the betterment of the team.
Wade’s intentions were just, but the on-court results were just awful.
The Cavaliers stumbled out of the gates to a 5-7 record; then seemed to right the ship by winning 18 of their next 19; but went right back in the tank by losing 14 of their next 22 games.
Miami, which has lost seven of its last 10 games and slipped from No. 4 to No. 7 in the East standings, could use the spark of nostalgic energy that Wade will bring while he still has enough tread on the tires to give the Heat a proven and reliable late-game scorer.
Wade is Miami’s all-time leader in points, games, assists and steals, shots made and shots taken. Also, his leadership and presence should help the Heat’s young players reach their full potential.
“This is definitely a playoff team,” Wade said. “This is a team that a lot of teams around the NBA respect because of the way that they play the game.”