Dwyane Wade will reportedly reunite with former Miami Heat running mate LeBron James on the Cleveland Cavaliers, as the two pursue their third NBA championship together after three years apart.
Wade finalized a buyout agreement with the Chicago Bulls on Sunday, foregoing roughly a third of his $23.8 million contract for the upcoming season to become a free agent a month before the opener.
Wade reportedly turned down a two-year, $40 million offer from the Heat in favor of a $47 million deal from the Bulls. Between last season and the combined figure he will receive from Chicago and Cleveland this year, Wade will make roughly the same salary he would have received from Miami.
During his one season in Chicago, Wade clashed with teammates and upper management. However, the 35-year-old assured fans in an interview with the Chicago Tribune on Sunday that he has nothing but love for the organization and city, despite the rocky return to his hometown ending in a buyout.
The Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs were also reportedly in the running for the Wade’s services, but the Cavs were always considered the favorite. They had less money to offer than others, but with Isaiah Thomas slated to be out until January and a shallow bench, Cleveland has plenty of minutes to offer another playmaker of Wade’s caliber — even one at an advanced NBA age.
Plus, there was Wade’s relationship and familiarity with James. The two made four consecutive NBA Finals appearances together on the Heat from 2011-14, and LeBron has made three more trips since.
But while James has maintained an MVP-caliber level of play since returning to Cleveland, winning his first title without Wade in 2016, his ex-teammate has steadily declined in his mid-30s. Wade posted respectable averages — 18.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists — on the Bulls last season, but his 43.4 field goal percentage was the mark of his career, and his shooting only got worse in the playoffs.
How much injuries have played into that downward spiral is a legitimate question. Wade battled leg and knee problems during his final few seasons in Miami, and a sprained and fractured right elbow this past March was initially diagnosed as a season-ending injury. He returned once the Bulls made a push for the Eastern Conference’s eight seed, but struggled in a first-round loss to the Boston Celtics.
“I just felt it was time for me, turning 36, that I want to be competing for a championship,” Wade told the Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson upon confirming his buyout on Sunday. The 12-time All-Star and future Hall of Famer added, “What it’s about for me is looking at the right role. I feel I can still play.”
We are only a little over a year removed from Wade submitting a vintage playoff performance for the Heat, averaging 21.4 points (on 52.2 percent shooting), 5.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists in leading the Heat within a game of the Western Conference finals. If the presence of J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, Derrick Rose, Jose Calderon and (eventually) Thomas in the backcourt can help limit Wade’s minutes during the regular season, there is hope he could bolster Cleveland’s pursuit of a second title in three years.
Whether the addition of Wade brings the Cavaliers any closer to dethroning the Golden State Warriors remains doubtful, but more likely it helps their chances of holding on to the East throne against a Celtics team that acquired Kyrie Irving from Cleveland and added Gordon Hayward over the summer.
Paul George and Carmelo Anthony lobbied hard for Wade to join them alongside Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City. George told reporters at media day that he had been in constant communication with Wade since the buyout, and Anthony chimed in, “Come on, D. You know where you belong.” But the opportunity for playing time and a chance to play with James again was apparently more convincing.
Source: Ben Rohrbach| Ball Don’t Lie