The Heat and Dwyane Wade have been discussing potential resolutions of his contract situation and there’s a significant difference in what both parties believe he should be paid for the next three seasons, according to multiple sources.
Though Wade prefers to stay with the Heat, where he has spent his entire 12-year career, he is now open to considering other teams this summer if the Heat does not raise its offer, according to three sources with direct knowledge.
Wade must decide by late June whether to opt out of a contract that would pay him $16.1 million next season.
The Heat wants to keep him but believes that paying him what he’s seeking would dramatically reduce its flexibility to add additional players during the summers of 2016 and 2017.
Last summer, in order to give the Heat flexibility to augment its roster, Wade opted out of the final two years of a contract that would have paid him $41.6 million. He instead accepted a two-year, $31 million deal, which included a player option for next season at $16.1 million.
Wade said last summer that he was curious to see what he could command in the summer of 2016, when the cap is expected to skyrocket from $67 million to $89 million. That led to the belief that Wade would opt-in this summer.
But according to associates, Wade wants to opt out this summer, with the hope that the Heat would give him a lucrative three-year deal that would extend past his 36th birthday.
That does not appear to be the Heat’s preference. The Heat apparently would be content with Wade opting in for next season, then re-signing for good, but not huge, money for another two seasons after that.
Regardless of whether Wade opts out or not, there is believed to be a sizable gap between what Wade would like over the next three seasons and what the Heat would prefer to pay him.
Wade's agent, Henry Thomas, declined to discuss the gap in negotiations, the chances of Wade leaving the Heat or whether Wade definitely will opt out.
“With the amount of time he has spent with the organization, every effort will be made to try to work something out," Thomas said. "The five times he played for a championship, resulting in three championships, is a significant accomplishment for any professional. We are continuing to talk about a resolution that would be satisfactory to both sides.”
Is Wade angry with the Heat's offer?
"I am going to continue to have conversations with the Heat and try to make this work," Thomas responded.
Thomas declined to speculate how he believes this will turn out. "We will continue to talk," Thomas said. "It’s relativity early in the process."
Wade hasn't commented about his contract situation but said after the season: “I feel like I’ve got a few good years left."
Wade’s desire for one last big contract from the Heat can easily be justified: He helped the Heat win three titles, played a vital role in luring LeBron James and Chris Bosh to Miami, has consistently performed at an All-Star level, sacrificed substantial potential earnings to give the Heat flexibility over the past five years and comported himself with class.
What’s more, Chris Bosh’s Heat contract averages $23.6 million per season and Goran Dragic (if he resigns with Miami) could be making as much as much as $21.8 million annually. And keep in the mind that the Lakers paid Kobe Bryant $30.4 million and $23.5 million the past two seasons and will pay him $25 million this coming season.
But here’s the conundrum from the Heat’s perspective: Say, hypothetically, the Heat gives Wade $20 million instead of, say $10 million, in both 2016-17 and 2017-18.
If Dragic re-signs and if Hassan Whiteside commands a huge contract from Miami as an unrestricted free agent next summer, the Heat could be paying more than $80 million to four players in 2016-17. Throw in the $5.8 million due Josh McRoberts in 2016-17, and that would leave the Heat with no room under an $89 million cap to address small forward or bolster its bench.
There’s also the delicate matter of Wade’s injuries. He missed 20 games last season after sitting out 13 and 28 the previous two. In a news conference after the season, Heat president Pat Riley emphasized the importance of Wade being available.
"He's got to change the narrative himself about his body and about his injuries and about his missing games," Riley said. "And we had a discussion about this. But he always has to answer those questions, and I know those questions are legitimate because they're real.
"So night in and night out, there's always the question of whether or not he can or he can't. And so I'd like to have him try to get past that first hurdle mentally and do whatever he has to do to get himself ready to practice and himself ready to play, each and every night….
There is no doubt that we're going to need Dwyane every single night that he's available. He is a great, great, great player, right up there in this organization for the 12 years he's been here, best of the best."
Riley added that “players today have a tendency to be able to play longer. And if you go back into the '70s, I saw all the great ones leave around 34 or 35 years old, because of injury or age. That's when you were supposed to retire. Very few played longer than that. This could probably be the greatest challenge in his career.”
The Heat expects Wade to return for a 13th season with Miami. Kentucky guard Devin Booker, a strong candidate for the Heat’s selection with the 10th pick in the draft, said Riley told him that “D-Wade is getting older now, is on the last part of his career, and come and learn from him.”
Associates aren’t sure what will happen and would not be shocked if Wade leaves. With the history of success together and everything Wade and the Heat have invested in each other, it’s difficult to fathom Wade finishing his career elsewhere. But Wade staying can no longer be assured.
Keep this in mind: The chances of Dragic signing elsewhere increase if Wade leaves.
Wade is an 11-time All-Star and eight times has been named to the All-NBA’s first, second or third team. He was not on an All-NBA team this season but received two third-place votes.
He has ranked seventh, 18th and 24th in ESPN’s NBA efficiency ratings over the past threes season. He shot 47 percent last season, lowest since his rookie season but second behind J.J.Redick among shooting guards.
“I always figure out a way to keep myself being as efficient as I can be,” Wade said after the season. “For me, it’s always just about working on my game. This year, I became a better post player, became more comfortable down there…. I love to score. It’s going to be easy to work on trying to score.”
Wade said last month that the roster needs augmenting and “I have my own ideas but it’s not my job to say what areas need to be addressed. Our organization is going to address the areas that need to be. Obviously, it’s not enough [on the roster] because we’re sitting where we are right now.
“You want to always add to make sure you complement those players with other players around them. I know one thing about the Heat organization. We’re not going to just sit around and hope. We’re going to try to figure out to make sure we can be as competitive an organization as we became accustomed to.”
Wade is keeping himself in excellent shape. He announced on Instagram on Wednesday that he has completed a 30-day diet and has dropped his weight from 228.2 to 216.5.
"I now know what I need to do to lose the weight I want when I want,” he posted. “Now that my 30 days are over I must maintain this level of eating and make it a [lifestyle (with] some cheat days).”