Dwyane Wade announced his return to Miami in 2014 on Twitter, proclaiming himself a “Heat Lifer.” As Wade made his latest free-agent decision Wednesday night, his Twitter account was silent.
The news was that stunning. The man behind the term “Heat Lifer” is leaving Miami.
Wade plans to sign with the Chicago Bulls on a two-year, $47 million contract, according to The Vertical, walking away from the only professional franchise he’s ever played for. The Vertical also reported that the contract contains a one-year option that could make Wade a free agent again next summer.
It’s a homecoming for the 34-year-old, who grew up in Chicago rooting for the Bulls.
“This was not an easy decision, but I feel I have made the right choice for myself and my family,” Wade wrote in a letter to Miami, released to The Associated Press.
Contract talks between the Heat and Wade turned ugly this summer and pushed the best player in franchise history to explore his options.
Wade, who spent the first 13 seasons of his career with Miami, was looking for the Heat to prioritize his free agency. Instead, the Heat pursued free agents Hassan Whiteside and Kevin Durant before turning their attention to Wade.
Contract talks were tense last summer as well, but a meeting with Heat owner Micky Arison got Wade to stay on a one-year, $20 million deal.
The Heat used a similar strategy this time, with Arison traveling to New York on Wednesday to meet with Wade in an attempt to repair the organization’s relationship with the 12-time All-Star. Arison reportedly got the final face-to-face meeting with Wade after he met with Bucks and Nuggets officials, but it wasn’t enough to keep him in Miami.
Late Wednesday night, Arison thanked Wade on Twitter for his years in Miami.
“Thank you @DwyaneWade for a great 13 yrs! You’ve had a tremendous impact on our community and our organization. We wish you all the best.”
Wade was looking for a deal worth around $50 million over two years, according to a report from ESPN on Tuesday. Wade also was interested in a longer deal, as The Vertical reported that he wanted a third year on his contract.
A source confirmed Monday that the Heat offered Wade a two-year, $40 million contract with a player option for the second year. Wade would have made $20 million in each season.
According to The Vertical, the Heat were unwilling to add a third year to their final offer.
With only $20 million of cap space remaining after locking up Whiteside on a max four-year deal, the Heat would have had to trade Josh McRoberts to free up another $5 million in cap space in order to meet Wade’s monetary demands.
Wade held face-to-face meetings with the Bucks, Heat and Nuggets on Wednesday in New York.
Chicago officials also were scheduled to meet with Wade, but it was canceled because the Bulls’ flight “kept getting pushed back,” according to The Vertical. The mishap obviously didn’t hurt Chicago’s chances of landing Wade. The Bulls reportedly were clearing cap space on Wednesday prior to finalizing the deal for Wade.
The news sets up an interesting episode of “Live With Kelly.” Wade is scheduled to co-host “Live With Kelly,” anchored by Kelly Ripa, at 9 a.m. Thursday on ABC.
With Wade out of the picture, Miami still has $20 million in cap space to work with this offseason. The Heat currently have seven players under contract for next season, assuming Whiteside signs his contract when the NBA signing moratorium concludes today: Chris Bosh (due $23.7 million next season), Whiteside (due $22 million next season), Goran Dragic (due $15.9 million next season), McRoberts (due $5.8 million next season), Justise Winslow (due $2.6 million next season), Briante Weber (due $219,000 guaranteed and could earn up to $875,000 next season), and Josh Richardson (due $875,000 non-guaranteed next season).
With Miami’s current cap situation, one option for the Heat is to match Tyler Johnson’s four-year, $50 million offer sheet from the Nets. Miami also can look to retain free agent Udonis Haslem, who earned $2.8 million last season, with the $2.9 million room exception.
After being drafted by the Heat with the fifth overall pick in the 2003 NBA draft, Wade won three championships and built a Hall of Fame legacy with Miami. Wade leaves the Heat as the organization’s all-time leader in games (855), minutes played (30,560), points (20,221), assists (4,944) and steals (1,414).
Without Wade, the Heat will have to build around the core of Bosh, Dragic and Whiteside – if Bosh is able to return from recurring blood clot issues. Whiteside is the only free agent the Heat have locked up this summer.
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