From city to city, Wade has been peppered with inquiries about his impending free agency next summer. He understands the fascination – “The unknown is always interesting,” he said – and if he were a fan (or maybe an NBA general manager), he’d want answers, too.
But Wade, perhaps more than any other member of the heralded Summer of 2010 class, has been consistent with his message from the start.
Bottom line: Dwyane Wade wants to stay in Miami, but he also wants help.
“I’m 28 years old and I’m all about winning,” Wade said. “I have to make sure that we are about winning as a franchise. I’m not saying anything other than we need to continue to beef the team up. I love my teammates. We have some great things going. But we need more. I just want to make sure we get that.
“I want to be in Miami and I’m sure our team is going to do everything in our power to make sure we are a winning team. But at the end of the day, we have to do it. People have to come and want to be in Miami. We have to wait until that happens, and if we can get other guys to come here with some of the talent we have here, we can get back to competing, really competing, having the mindset of a champion instead of just thinking about just getting to the playoffs.”
Right now, the Heat are just that: a middle-of-the-pack playoff contender, potentially capable of a first-round upset, but clearly a notch or two below the East’s Big Four of Boston, Orlando, Cleveland and Atlanta. After an impressive start in which they won six of their first seven games, the Heat have most recently dropped four of their past six. They’re hovering above .500, which is what they did last season. And if you know Wade, you also know he doesn’t consider .500 rarefied air.
“If you only focus on the results, you can see a mixed bag with our team so far,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “But if you look at our process and the way we’ve been playing recently, we are close to having a breakthrough. How many breakthroughs we have this season? I don’t know.”
Wade has averaged his usual sensational numbers: 27.1 points, 6.1 assists and 5.2 rebounds. But he also hasn’t shot as well this season, and he admits to trying to carry too heavy a load. He has placed much of the pressure for the team’s success on his own shoulders, and on some nights, he said, it can “affect the way I normally play.”
“I want to be great every night,” Wade said. “And great every night for me is not making any mistakes, hitting all my shots, making big shots.
“It’s just about me wanting to win and not wanting to be .500.”
Wade has tasted success, which has made him only hungrier for more. Four seasons ago, he led the Heat to their first championship and was named the Finals MVP. In the summer of 2008, he helped Team USA win the gold medal at the Beijing Olympics. These days, a win over the Sacramento Kings qualifies as reason to celebrate.
“It makes it harder,” Wade said. “I can’t expect everyone to understand unless you won a championship before. Now you’re battling back to get back to that. It’s harder than not winning one and then you’re trying to get there and keep building. Once you’ve won it, you want to get back to that feeling.”
While the Cleveland Cavaliers have aggressively loaded and reloaded their roster to help LeBron James(notes), the Heat have taken a slightly more conservative approach, targeting the end of this season for when they’ll land Wade some help. In the meantime, Alonzo Mourning(notes) is retired and Shaquille O’Neal(notes) is gone. Shawn Marion(notes) came and went quickly. Second-year forward Michael Beasley(notes) is a steady scorer, but it’s uncertain whether he’ll ever develop into an All-Star. Jermaine O’Neal(notes) looks better than he has the previous couple seasons, but he’s still well past his prime.
Miami still has time to add that type of player. The Heat tried unsuccessfully to sign Lamar Odom(notes) over the summer, and one of the biggest reasons why Odom stayed with the Los Angeles Lakers was that he didn’t know if Wade would be in Miami past this season. James, Bosh, Carlos Boozer(notes) and Amar’e Stoudemire(notes) will all be on the market in the coming summer, and the Heat will have enough money to pay one of them and give Wade his max contract. Wade, however, has made it clear he’s not going to commit to staying until he knows who else is coming to join him.
Until then, there will be more questions. As Wade said, it’s the unknown that makes his future so interesting. Right now not even he has all the answers.