The Heat have agreed to re-sign All-Star guard Dwyane Wade, according to the Sun-Sentinel and ESPN.com. Wade will reportedly earn $31.1 million over two years, with a player option for the 2015-16 season.
Wade became an unrestricted free agent this summer by exercising the early termination option after four years of a six-year, $108 million contract. That opt-out decision, which aimed to free up Miami's flexibility as it sought to retain its "Big Three" of LeBron James, Wade and Chris Bosh, saw Wade leave $42 million over two years on the table.
"Home Is Where The Heart Is," Wade wrote on Instagram, alongside a photo of him and Miami's three title banners. "My Home, my City, my House. Heat lifer."
Questions swirled around the Heat's "Big Three" this summer, but Wade's return seemed a certainty throughout. The 2003 lottery pick has spent his entire 11-year career in Miami, and he's long been a South Florida icon.
“Dwyane has been the franchise cornerstone for this team since the day he arrived 11 years ago,” Heat president Pat Riley said in a statement. “He has shown his commitment to the Heat many times over the course of his career and has always been willing to sacrifice in order to help build this team into a champion. This time is no different. I am ecstatic to have him back in the fold and I am confident that Dwyane, as always, will be leading this team as we look to contend for NBA Championships.”
Wade, 32, averaged 19 points, 4.7 assists, and 4.5 rebounds last season while shooting a career-high 54.5 percent. He posted a Player Efficiency Rating of 22, second-best among off guards behind James Harden, but he sat out one-third of the season as Miami managed his knee injuries.
SI.com ranked Wade at No. 5 on our "Top 25 Free Agents of 2014" list, noting that his health issues made him the toughest player to rank in this summer's class. A nice postseason that saw him average 17.8 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.9 assists came apart during the Finals, as the 10-time All-Star struggled to contribute against the Spurs, particularly in Game 4 and Game 5.
The agreement with Wade should complete an offseason of heavy lifting for Heat president Pat Riley. Wade will join Chris Bosh and Mario Chalmers, who were both re-signed, and free-agent acquisitions Luol Deng, Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger in making up the Heat's new core, as the organization moves forward following James' crushing departure to the Cavaliers.
All of the conditions necessary for Miami to make a huge mistake with Dwyane Wade were in play. Wade left major, major money on the table, making it seem as if the Heat would need to reward his loyalty with a long-term deal. LeBron James unexpectedly departed, freeing up $20 million extra dollars per year. Chris Bosh received a full five-year max contract, setting a standard for major compensation. And then there was Kobe Bryant's two-year, $48.5 million extension hanging over everything as a comparison point for an aging but popular franchise icon.
Although Wade didn't go all the way to the full Dirk Nowitzki level of sacrifice, this contract represents a major victory for Heat president Pat Riley. Wade not only accepted a paycut in the 30 percent range, he also agreed to take a short-term contract that keeps Miami's flexibility intact. Wade's give-back was the key factor in allowing Riley to ink Bosh to a new deal and add Luol Deng; accomplishing both would have been impossible had Wade demanded that his new deal was commensurate with the option money he passed on.
This agreement should help keep Miami competitive in the East over the next two years. In two years, it's possible, if not likely, that Wade's health has further deteriorated and that his earning power will be significantly lessened. He therefore took a real risk in agreeing to a short-term contract, and he is left to hope that Riley scratches his back in return down the line.