Column: Wade, Riley divorce best for both
He was supposed to finish his career with the only franchise he’s ever known, in the place he dubbed “Wade County.”
He was the one who coined the term “Heat Lifer,” a phrase the Miami Heat ran with in the summer of 2014 as a franchise built upon loyalty when LeBron James rode home to Cleveland.
It was a marriage that lasted 13 seasons —three ending with championships — but a marriage Wednesday night that ended in a messy divorce.
But it was a divorce necessary for both sides.
Dwyane Wade left the Heat for the Chicago Bulls in a stunning move, agreeing to a reported two-year contract worth $47.5 million. The Heat were offering Wade a reported two-year deal worth $41.5 million, but that wasn’t good enough for Wade.
Not after sacrificing countless times through the years so the franchise could chase other free agents, especially when he helped bring James to Miami in 2010. He wanted a repayment and wanted it this offseason.
He wanted to be prioritized.
Instead, the Heat gave center Hassan Whiteside a new deal in the opening hours of free agency and then chased Kevin Durant over the weekend, one year after prioritizing Goran Dragic over Wade.
All while, knowingly or not, pushing Wade away.
That led to Wade flirting with the Denver Nuggets and Milwaukee Bucks, two teams the Heat never thought he’d leave for, believing it to be just a leveraging move for more dollars.
Riley basically called his bluff, until the Bulls came calling.
Chicago is Wade’s hometown, a city he nearly left Miami for in the summer of 2010. The Bulls may have offered more money but this wasn’t about money, not when you throw in the fact Florida has no state income tax.
No, this was about respect, pride and ego, and neither side was backing down. Wade was hurt and the Heat were frustrated.
Miami’s final offer of $41.5 million was the rest of Miami’s remaining cap space but Wade reportedly either wanted a third year on the deal or the more money over those two years, which wasn’t possible without breaking up part of the team.
That’s a tough call for Riley, considering Wade is the greatest athlete in South Florida sports history. He’s a hero to an entire generation — my generation — and I love him to death.
He’ll be my favorite athlete till the day I die.
But you know what, Riley made the right call.
He wants to be able to chase a 2017 free agent class that includes Durant, Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and Gordon Hayward, and that wasn’t going to happen with close to $25 million tied to Wade for two or three seasons.
With Wade gone, and Chris Bosh’s future uncertain, the Heat may be able to add two of those guys next summer to go along with Whiteside, Dragic, Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson.
Riley’s job is to put the best possible team on the basketball court. He wasn’t going to let Wade at 34 years old eat up the salary cap and hurt the future of the franchise, much like Kobe Bryant did with the Los Angeles Lakers the past two seasons.
That was the fear, giving Wade the “Kobe deal,” and watching the franchise go from trophy raisers to doormats in three seasons.
The Lakers are a dumpster fire. They just wrapped up a year-long retirement party for Bryant all while finishing 17-65 after going 21-61 in 2015.
Things have gotten so bad for the Lakers that they can’t attract big time free agents. They couldn’t even get a meeting with Durant while the other team they share an arena with, the Clippers, did.
They’re in a full rebuild mode, something Riley, at 71 years old, doesn’t have time for anymore.
Riley doesn’t play to just make the playoffs. He plays for championships.
Maybe Riley never thought Wade would leave. Maybe he did. Maybe he wanted him to in order to free up salary cap space.
We may never know.
All I know is, I trust Riley to make the right call.