Dwyane Wade's decision to leave the Heat was weird in itself, but there were a number of other odd circumstances surrounding his exit.
We’ve had 48 hours to think about Dwyane Wade wearing a Bulls jersey, and it doesn’t feel that much more real. But, believe it or not, Wade’s exit (Dwyexit?) happened this week, another outlandish side note to another oddball NBA off-season.
Wade is no longer the best player on the market, but in terms of career gravitas, he is and will be the biggest fish to switch sides. So after running through as many stages of processing as possible…here we go.
1. Dwyane Wade is not on the Heat anymore
There aren’t really that many accurate non-sports analogies to help make sense of this situation. Even if you split his Heat career into three neat segments—before LeBron, during LeBron and post-LeBron—Dwyane Wade has never not been the face of the franchise. Wade terrorized the Mavericks and shot a billion free throws on his way to Finals MVP in 2006 with Shaquille O'Neal as a teammate. Of course, when LeBron was there, he came to Wade’s team. Even though he will wear a Bulls jersey, he’s entrenched in the Kobe echelon of player-franchise cognitive association.
Wade turns 35 this season, and he’s the Heat’s career leader in games played, minutes played, points, field goals made and field goal attempts, free throws and free throw attempts, assists, steals and even turnovers. He’s second in shots blocked and fourth in rebounds. Fittingly, he is second in fouls to Udonis Haslem. Speaking of Haslem, unless Pat Riley decides out of raw spite (not that far-fetched) to trot him back out there for half a season, none of Wade’s records will be touched anytime soon. Good luck, Justise Winslow. We’re all pulling for you.
It’s just strange for Wade to play elsewhere. It’s a gaping hole. It’s tricky and difficult to accept. Between Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose and Wade, when was the last time this many true franchise cornerstones switched teams in one off-season? Tim Duncan might be retiring. If you try, you can maybe squeeze Al Horford into that group. It’s nice to know the powers that be love NBA 2K franchise mode as much as the general population.
2. Pat Riley’s text message to Dan LeBatard
Shortly after the news broke, LeBatard wrote a very on-point Wade goodbye column for the Miami Herald. In it, he somehow managed to publish a bizarre text from Pat Riley and live to see another day. It is as follows:
Riley: “SADDDDDDD!!!! SO saddddddd! I will never forget the sixth game in Dallas in 2006. DW rebounded the ball, and threw it to the heavens and the Heat universe was perfect for that moment. Our first world championship. Our universe is not perfect today. It will be fraught with anger, judgment, blame instead of THANK YOU!!! Ten years ago. Ten years older. Ten years wiser. Ten years changed. All of us. Dwyane had a choice, and he made it. He went home. Bad, bad summer for us. But there will be another 10 years, and it will be someone or something else in 2026. Move on with no blood or tears. Just thanks. I truly loved Dwyane, but families grow, change and get on with another life. He will always be a part of us. ALWAYS! And no more bruises and enough fighting. Let’s just fly above it if we can and never forget. I feel his pain and pride for what pushed him over the ledge. Been there. Forever, for always, your coach I will be. FOREVER!”
This is…so profoundly, aggressively odd. Who knew Pat Riley’s texting inflections so strongly evoked Donald Trump? Given all that’s been reported here—the Heat never cared to match financially, the Heat wouldn’t clear more cap space to fit Wade, the Heat prioritized Whiteside, the Heat pursued Durant and irked their resident superstar—Pat Riley came off a little cold at first. After reading this, nothing makes sense. It’s true that older generations communicate through technology differently…but doesn’t that last FOREVER feel slightly menacing?
3. Riley’s behavior is still suspicious
Did Pat Riley know what he was doing all along or did he really think Wade would cave?— Matt Dollinger (@matt_dollinger) July 7, 2016
SI NBA editor Matt Dollinger raises a good question here. Riley has a long history of negotiating with stars and brokering mega-deals. He’s known Wade for the duration of his playing career. Wade was never the highest-paid player on the Heat, had to have given some indication of what he wanted this off-season, and Riley essentially made him Plan C. Ethan Skolnick of the Miami Herald reported that Riley NEVER ONCE called Wade during the free agency process. A Wednesday meeting with owner Micky Arison was the last gasp, it seems.
Putting two and two together…was Riley’s ulterior motive to create cap space to bid on Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin or Chris Paul next year, while maintaining some type of PR face? I mean…
For Miami, Pat Riley needs to know: Is Wade in or out? If he's out, Riley is lining up contingency plans. He'll move fast elsewhere.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 7, 2016
But on the other hand, there’s not a whole lot left on the market for the Heat to sign. Bad, bad summer.
4. Wade co-hosted Kelly Ripa’s show at a very convenient time
Measured take: this was probably scheduled months in advance, because Wade says he wants to work on-screen in some capacity after he retires. He is pretty charismatic. But it’s just a little convenient, right?
5. The Bulls are totally winging it right now
Make no mistake about it, Chicago totally fell ass backwards into this Wade situation. It’s been a busy off-season for the Bulls, who dealt away Derrick Rose, let Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol walk, then agreed to sign established problem child Rajon Rondo to replace Rose at point guard. You could reason through the initial tear-down, with the plan to let Jimmy Butler take center stage and try to fast-track a rebuild. The discourse was that Rose and Butler couldn’t work on the court, both needing the ball a bit too much, both non-shooters and unable to cover for each other’s weaknesses.
It was fair enough to talk yourself into that, until Rondo got thrown into the mix. He led the league in assists while on a semi-trashy Kings team. Adding his prickly personality into the mix, plus the fact that he also can’t shoot and also needs the ball too much reeked of a stealthy tank. Fred Hoiberg was once the front office’s hand-picked coach. Forcing him to deal with the poorest of poor philosophical and locker room fits looked like an easy alibi to axe him at the end of the season disguised as an attempt to stay competitive.
Then Woj tweeted Wednesday that the Bulls were all of a sudden in on Wade, who was all of a sudden back from a vacation with the Banana Boat Bros, taking meetings and actually serious about leaving the Heat. Maybe he just liked making Micky Arison squirm, or maybe he was legitimately miffed. Wade met with the Nuggets and Bucks and then the Bulls got stuck at the airport and were trying to make trades to clear cap space. Then Dwyane Wade was…coming home. If Kevin Durant’s shocker was peak free agency, this was a pretty close second.
For the Bulls to shift course a third time, from winning later to semi-winning now to “Wait, Dwyane Wade is interested?” points to a greater lack of planning. It’s probable they had zero idea they could get in on Wade when they signed Rondo. Maybe they’ve always been in love with Wade (if you go back to the ’03 draft, they pretty much have been). But it’s hard not to see it as an impulsive half-pivot into a couple more years of relevancy, and suddenly trying to squeeze three non-shooters with large personalities together in a perimeter shooting-based league. It will also be hard not to watch...just over your shoulder, wincing with one eye open.
6. Chicago used to hate Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo
Rondo was the main playoff villain in 2009, when he flagrant-fouled Brad Miler and shoved Kirk Hinrich into the scorer’s table during arguably the greatest first round series of all time between the upstart Bulls and defending champion Celtics.
Then, once LeBron split Cleveland for Miami, it was Wade sneering and soaking up the boos at the United Center. He is technically a hometown guy—Robbins, Ill., is just south of the city. That said, Bulls fans never treated him that way.
This is going to take some getting used to.
7. Dwyane Wade once fractured Rajon Rondo’s elbow
Yeah, that happened.
8. Wait, could Jimmy Butler still get traded?
Let’s call it a definite maybe. Remember that on draft night, the Bulls had just traded Rose and were involved in Butler talks with the Celtics, and more aggressively, the Timberwolves. It stands to reason that maybe, just maybe they might not view him as the guy to lead the team long term. He’s had a quick ascent, but he’s 26, not 23. What we just saw from him was great, but it might be close to what we’re going to get. Adding Wade to the mix with Rondo means the Bulls’ starting perimeter trio combined to shoot 31% from three last season (while we’re here, did you know Rondo shot a career-best 36.5%?).
Sure, trading him really doesn’t make a ton of sense. But if Butler was available then, he’s certainly one call away from somebody opening talks back up now, with Wade in place at the two and not a whole lot else filling out the roster. The Bulls are delaying a straight up tank with Wade and Rondo, both on board for no more than two years, but there’s absolutely no inkling of what they’re doing after that. It feels like anything is possible. And for what it’s worth, they should have cap room for a max free agent next season.
9. For one moment, Hassan Whiteside held the keys to doomsday
what if Whiteside backs out, goes to Dallas instead, no Bogut trade to facilitate Durant, who goes back to the Thunder.— alex (@steven_lebron) July 7, 2016
This did not happen and will not be happening. But the DeAndre Jordan stuff once happened, which means we can get into Hassan Whiteside-centered butterfly effect games like this. WHAT IF?
10. Nope, Dwyane Wade is not on the Heat anymore
Please just don’t give him Derrick’s locker.
At guard…from Robbins, Illinois…number three…