Pat Riley says he still has not spoken with Dwyane Wade, a three-time titlist with the Miami Heat that left the team after 13 years to join the Chicago Bulls as a free agent earlier in July. The Heat president, now entering his 22nd season with that title, says he has only begun to draft a long email to his longtime superstar, as yet unsent.
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As organizations tend to do while burying the bad news, Riley faced the media on Saturday afternoon for his first official offseason press conference of the free agent season. Unsolicited, Riley dove right into the “great regret” that he has for not doing all he could to keep Wade in Miami, even though such a separation (while unseemly in the interim) might be in Riley’s franchise’s best interests eventually.
“What happened with Dwyane floored me. And I’m going to miss the fact of what I might have had planned for him and his future and how I saw the end and my thought process in how I could see his end here with the Heat. You are what you think. It’s my responsibility to sort of make that happen. I didn’t make it happen.
“Dwyane left and the buck really stops here. I’m not trying to fall on the sword for anybody. I have great regret I didn’t put myself in the middle of it and immerse myself in the middle of it and get in a canoe and paddle to the Mediterranean if I had to, be in New York when he arrived on the 6th and greet him at the airport. I didn’t do that. I wasn’t there in the middle of that negotiation and that’s my job. It’s not going to be the same without him. But we will forge ahead.
“I have been here when Zo left, Shaq left, when Brian Grant, Eddie Jones. But Dwyane is unique. There will always be a key under the mat. I just hope it doesn’t get too rusty.”
Wow. That must be some hell of an email to look forward to.
Reports on the length and terms of any offer extended to Wade – who had signed deals in 2003, 2006, 2010, 2014 and 2015 with the team – vary. Wade ended up taking a two-year, $47.5 million deal to play in his hometown of Chicago, as the Bulls desperately try to cling to relevance by signing both Wade and guard Rajon Rondo, two veterans on the wrong side of 30.
As our Dan Devine and others have brought up in the wake of the divorce, however, eschewing that particular canoe might be the best overall move for this franchise.
In saying goodbye to veteran free agents like Wade, Luol Deng (“He was in until his agent called and told us $72 million. [That’s] a lot. There is no way when Lu told us that he got $72 million, that train just left the station. I’m happy for him. He’s going to a great franchise [the Lakers]”) and Joe Johnson (“When Joe Johnson got $22 million, that train left the station. Joe was a long shot for us always.”), the team left itself plenty of maneuverability during what will be a boffo 2017 NBA free agent class.
Technically, the 2016 free agent class acted as a star-studded affair as well, with Wade, LeBron James and Kevin Durant on the market. Though some thought there was a passable-enough chance that Durant would leave Oklahoma City, few-to-none expected Wade to jump ship. When word leaked that he was considering offers from Denver and Milwaukee, the NBA community reacted with almost universal derision – “sure you will, pal.”
wade: ill sign w the bucks
wade (goes to door): ill do it!
riley: ok. better buy a coat.
wade (standing halfway out: im going!
— ☕netw3rk (@netw3rk) July 2, 2016
In the end, Wade called Riley’s bluff; and despite all this talk of swords and canoes Riley might come out of this well-pleased. It’s uncanny, with this guy.
Harder to work through will be the almost inevitable showdown between Riley and forward/center Chris Bosh. Bosh has missed the final act of the last two regular seasons due to recurring blood clots, and though he seems dogged in his attempts to return the Heat appear to want to keep any comeback at arm’s length.
“It’s always fluid. It always has been since there was a diagnosis and a decision for him not to play the rest of the season. It’s a positive environment right now with Chris and his doctors. Our doctors are constantly communicating, more so now than ever. I know Chris wants to play. Obviously, we would be open to that but this is still a very fluid situation. On this day, there is not an answer. I wish I could give you one.’
“From the standpoint of today, it’s moving forward of down that road of him playing. He wants to play. We’re open to helping him get there. That’s all I can say. It’s a sensitive, complicated situation that I can’t speak to medically.”
“We should just wait until August or September [for clarity on Bosh]. I think we’ll have a lot more information then. Chris is an X factor here.”
The Heat were able to dodge the cynic’s view that keeping Bosh on the shelf and/or pushing him toward a medical retirement was a salary cap-serving move this season due to the fact that Bosh’s medical status was never going to affect how much cap room Miami would have worked with (in, say, attempts to sign Durant while keeping Wade and Hassan Whiteside) this summer.
That changes next summer, as Bosh is owed over $25.2 million in 2017-18, as the team nears the one-year anniversary of his last game later this winter. We’ve no reason to believe the Heat aren’t telling the truth in regards to their beloved big man, but that won’t stop the chirping. Especially in light of the Dwyane Wade separation, a dissolution that seemed a little too convenient.
In the meantime, Pat Riley is left to spin his annus horribilis any way he wants, probably make the playoffs, and try to game the system he helped create again next summer. He’s incorrigible!
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