LAS VEGAS – “Home is where the heart is,” Dwyane Wade wrote on Twitter, announcing his decision to re-sign with the Miami Heat and taking the pressure off a whole lot of people in the wake of LeBron James‘ decision to return to Cleveland.
— THREE (@DwyaneWade) July 15, 2014
It never was James’ intent, of course, to apply that pressure when he made such a splash – heartfelt, even touching (while allowing for some legit basketball reasons) – with his essay on SI.com about going home. To James, he was, is and always shall be someone entwined with northeast Ohio, from his boyhood in Akron to the seven NBA seasons he played for the Cavaliers. Millions of people are like that – wouldn’t think of living or working elsewhere, like our own David Aldridge – so for James to yield to that tugging on his sleeve and his heartstrings is an admirable thing.
For millions of others, though, home is where you make it. Maybe it’s where you work, a place perhaps unknown to you when you said yes to the job offer but vibrant and embracing enough to make you feel as if you always belong. Maybe it’s where you attended college, deciding to stay for some post-post-post-graduate work in life.
Maybe it’s some part of the country where the scenery or the climate is completely different from where you grew up. Just because your parents didn’t mind six months of winter, or four months every year where you never set foot outside without AC, doesn’t mean you’re bound to.
Me, I feel like home is where my wife is. And for many, it’s the spouse’s life that dictates the location, whether for career, family or simple preferences. For many others, though, home is where the relatives and folks who knew you when aren’t. Some people prefer to leave family and friends behind to build lives and seize adventures purely of their own making. Others want distance for its own sake.
Plot enough points among all those variables and you’ll find Wade, anchored in south Florida regardless of the All-Stars and teammates who choose to join or leave him. He has spent 11 years there and, from all signs, will always consider it home. It doesn’t matter that he grew up in Robbins, Ill., a suburb south of Chicago, or attended Marquette University in Milwaukee for three years. Miami is the place Wade became a man, began and is raising a family, has enjoyed all his professional success (three Heat championships) and will be honored in a few years in bronze outside AmericanAirlines Arena.
So if LeBron cast a vote for roots and homecomings Friday, Wade cast one four days later for adopted hometowns, fresh beginnings and career mobility. That speaks to a lot of NBA fans too.
Now, as far as the basketball aspect of this, there’s nothing surprising about Wade re-upping with the Heat. There never was a market for him to go elsewhere, based on a couple of things.
First, the entire league knew Wade would stay put and only opted out of the two years, $42 million left on his contract to provide team president Pat Riley with some salary-cap flexibility. James and forward Chris Bosh did the same, though the plan changed dramatically when James decided to go back to the Cavs.
The other reason for Wade’s lack of suitors was the sense around the NBA that his best days, and even his good ones, might be behind him. The 10-time All-Star still was productive for much of the regular season – when he played, that is.
Wade missed 28 games due to, and as a precaution for, his long-aching knees. Per 36 minutes, he averaged 20.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 3.3 blocks, not far off his career numbers, except his average and total minutes were down. And all that sitting in the regular season ultimately did not pay off; Wade had three lackluster games to finish out The Finals against San Antonio.
The idea all along was that Wade might give up some dollars in the short term – Riley referred to the shooting guard’s “sacrifice” in announcing his re-signing – and be rewarded with a deal stretching beyond 2016-17. Initial reports Tuesday, however, suggested that wasn’t the case – the Associated Press estimated Wade’s new deal to be for two years at $16 million to $17 million per year.
That’s less than he had coming to him, guaranteed, had he never opted out. It allows the Heat to stay nimble, and avoid committing a fat eight-figure salary to a player whose knees likely won’t be NBA-healthier when he’s 34 or 35 than they are right now. It also lightens the needle on this sort of social-media snark:
Live Look-In at the Miami Heat announcing Dwyane Wade’s new deal | pic.twitter.com/P9BmLkmIwI
— Faux John Madden (@FauxJohnMadden) July 15, 2014
At this point, it’s pretty clear Wade – who refers to himself as a “Heat lifer” – can have a job with the Miami franchise for as long as he chooses. If that continues into his post-playing days, well, whatever he, Riley and the Arison family work out then won’t be subject to the salary cap or luxury tax. From that perspective, home is where the $$$ is.
Still, there’s no need to be cynical here. Chicago, and the Bulls, never did anything wrong to keep Wade away from the market in which he grew up – in fact, he rooted and dreamed of playing for the Bulls (and would have been drafted there if they had been able to sneak up from No. 7 to snag him).
Like so many people, Wade left college, moved to start a job and put down roots. Those are the ones to which he stayed true Tuesday. It’s a Derek Jeter thing on MLB All-Star Tuesday, and who’s to quibble with that?