It’s September, we’re 40 days away from the start of the NBA season, and the free agent market is no longer full of stars. And yet, a 12-time All-Star and three-time NBA champion remains unsigned.
Dwyane Wade is a man without a team… maybe. The Miami Heat locked up one veteran mainstay on Thursday when they reportedly signed Udonis Haslem to a one-year, $2.4 million deal ahead of his 16th season with the franchise. Now, they have one open spot remaining on their roster. That spot is clearly meant for Wade, but it’s unclear whether the guard wants to take it or pass it up.
So what has Wade been doing?
Well, we know he’s been going to Nebraska football games, we know he’s been watching his son Zaire on the AAU circuit, and we know he’s been dabbling in the well-known viral tradition of popping up in random summer pickup games in Los Angeles …
… and in New York with Twitter employees:
Dwyane Wade actually showed up! pic.twitter.com/qvYxjvoSIp— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) September 6, 2018
If there’s one thing Wade has been doing, it’s been working out like a professional athlete, not a recent retiree. He recently hosted the D. Wade Invitational in Los Angeles, where various players, including C.J. McCollum and members of the Heat, showed up for a multiday workout camp. Wade hasn’t given any hint that he intends to actually call it quits.
There was a report earlier this summer that a Chinese basketball team was offering Wade $25 million over three years to play overseas. At 36, Wade had the option of getting the richest deal in Chinese basketball history, but he didn’t take it. In late June, Pat Riley told the Palm Beach Post that no decision had been made about whether to bring Wade back and that discussions would start soon. In July, Riley made it clearer that he intended to re-sign the face of the franchise:
”I want him back as a player,” he told local reporters. “I want him back as a competitor. I want him back as a guy who wants to have the greatest year he ever had as a player. I read more articles about ‘Dwyane being done, he’s lost a step, he’s not the same player, he might not have the same motivation.’ But I still see a player who can contribute heavily if he really wants to.”
In August, a local radio host from Houston reported that Wade would sign a one-year deal with the Heat and retire after the season. Wade called it out by tweeting, “Fake News.” Wade isn’t Kobe, but it’d be hard to fathom him turning down a retirement tour–type season.
It’s unclear if Wade and the Heat are on good terms. It was only two summers ago that Wade opted for playing in Chicago over sticking with Miami during free agency and then jumped to play with LeBron in Cleveland for half a season. I’m sure that didn’t go over well with Heat fans, either. Of course, Wade came back via trade last season and had a bit of a resurgence thanks to the team’s emphasis on fitness.
It feels nearly impossible that Wade will suit up in anything other than a Heat jersey, but his stalling is curious. What’s more, the Heat, uh, sort of need Wade this season. The team didn’t make any big offseason moves and have no clear star. Wade gives Miami stability as well as a scoring option in crunch time. Wade scored 12 points a game on 40 percent shooting during his second-half stint in Miami last season and only made nine of his 41 3s. He is not what he once was, but to this Heat team, he is important, especially if they want to make some noise in a relatively open Eastern Conference.
Wade might just be leveraging his power to get a summer to himself. This upcoming season would be the 16th season in his long career. There’s a chance Wade just doesn’t want to go to work until he feels like it. If you have that luxury, why not exercise it?