The divorce that was never supposed to happen has survived for a year and a half. In one corner, there is South Beach sans Dwyane Wade, the most popular and beloved franchise player of the Miami Heat. In the other corner there is Pat Riley, the man who drafted Dwyane Wade and alienated him.
In the summer season of 2016, Wade walked away from the team that drafted him, a move motivated by distrust, anger and a feeling of disrespect.
Time heals all wounds. Wade has always said that he wanted to play his last days out in Miami. He wants a Kobe-like retirement tour. He wants to soak up Wade County before he retires.
He has his wish. Traded back to Miami isn’t just for sentimental reasons. The Heat need him. A few weeks ago, they were a four seed and everyone was talking about Coach of the Year for Spo and a first round home court series. Now they have slipped back into the scrum of the East. They need a closer. Wade will be welcome, particularly after Dion Waiters has hit the shelf. Again.
Not to drown in hyperbole. But everything Wade was to the Heat cannot be jotted down. The NBA culture demands special players are treated differently. But in the beginning of the free agent season in 2016, it felt a little bit jaded, as if we had been here before with the Miami Heat and Dwyane Wade and a contract impasse and exasperation on both sides and the possibility of a divorce. And then the chickens came home to roost.
After the divorce, a chastened Wade said “I have nothing but love for everybody in the organization. And I want them to be successful.” It was sincere, taken at face value. He wasn’t the villain. Pat Riley took all the blame. Wade could bask in being the good citizen.
Without him, success has been an up and down merry-go-round for the Heat. Last year, they barely missed the playoffs. They deserve a lot of credit because of Spo but their deficiencies are their deficiencies.
They are 19th in field goal percentage. Below average in shotmaking. They are 26th in free throw attempts and 27th in free throw makes. So they don’t get to the line and when they do they brick easy buckets. They are 21st in offensive rebounding. They are 19th in assists and 22nd in points scored. Do they miss Dwyane Wade?
Hell yeah, they do.
What keeps them in games is they are a very good defensvie team which is what you would expect from Eric Spoelstra. 9th in field goal percentage defense. 9th in 3-point field goal defense. 5th in blocked shots. 10th in points allowed. 7th in Defensive Rating.
All of this because the Heat and Riley gambled that Wade’s place in Heat lore and the South Beach community and his reverence for the city and his new house and his loyalty to fans would keep him, the most loyal of all soldiers, in line. They gambled and lost.
The summer before the 2017 summer, the Heat had a contract number and Wade had a contract number and the lack of symmetry had Wade thinking about leaving. Disrespect is what players always talk about in relation to their salary but the more important question to be discussed is what are you paying a player for? Is it what they have achieved in the past? Or, is it what is possible in the future?
There is a very real distinction between value and worth. Value is symptomatic of production. What do you do for us? But worth is an economic derivative where production, cost benefit, rate of return and actual cash value are used to justify a certain salary. In short, this is a battle between your head and your heart, logic and emotion.
Not to get over nostalgic about it but Wade was the center object for the Heat, even during the brief but dominant LeBron era. It was Wade who sacrificed. That sacrifice didn’t mean much to the Heat, as far as wanting to honor it. They didn’t even see it as sacrifice.
There is an irony here about Wade and his blood, sweat and tears. When the Lakers gave Kobe Bryant a golden parachute after his Achilles injury and received a boatload of criticism for it, the Lakers explanation had nothing to do with basketball and everything to do with treating franchise changing players with respect. Kobe’s contract set a precedent that (so far) no other organization seems intent on following. But LeBron James has tutored NBA players. Think about you. Go, if you feel disrespected. Go, if you can’t win. Go, if the marriage is over.
The marriage, we can say now, was once in the trash, the detritus floating in the South Beach wind. All parties said the right thing at the time. But divorces leave hurt feelings.
Wade has gotten over it. He had a veto power to the trade but he agreed to go back to Miami, a place he misses.
And so a tense relationship was delivered the final, brutal blow and then it was forgiven for the mistake it was. The heart had left the Heat body, cut out by the very people responsible for Wade’s presence in the first place. Everyone saw it coming except the Heat who pushed Wade out the door and left him without a choice. A man has pride. A man can forgive and forget, lick his wounds and make a caculation. Who do you love? Who do you miss?
Once upon a time, Wade brought in LeBron James and Chris Bosh. Wade took pay cuts in the LeBron era. He took a pay cut after LeBron left.
Dwyane Wade is a Miami institution. In a gamble that was a catastrophe, the Heat offered less than Wade’s worth. Wade called their bluff and the Heat could not figure out how to get back to where they were. It is hard getting a franchise record setting player in the draft. You have to be really bad and then really lucky selecting talent.
Wade is returning. It is the only way this story should end, a Hollywood-esque make up. The Heat have been absolved, no more trying to explain how it fell apart.
Once upon a time, it was a divorce. And divorce heals gaping wounds. Eventually people make up though. They come back to where they belong and it feels as if they never really left.
photo via llananba