Wade is coming back to the Miami Heat, announcing Sunday that he’s returning for a 16th and final NBA season. He basically spent the entirety of the last four months weighing his options, and retirement was an extremely real possibility in his mind.
Instead, he’ll be back in Miami, as the Heat desperately hoped. He’s expected to sign a $2.4 million, one-year deal later this week.
“I’ve always did things my way,” Wade said in an emotional social-media video that he taped Sunday afternoon and released in the evening. “Whether they’ve good or whether they’ve been bad, I got here because I’ve done things the way I feel is right for me and right for my family. And what I feel is right … I feel it’s right to ask you guys to join me for one last dance, for one last season.
“This is it. I’ve given this game everything that I have, and I’m happy about that, and I’m going to give it for one last season.”
Wade is Miami’s career leader in points, assists, steals and games played. His status was an enormous question mark this summer, especially now with the team a week away from going to training camp. Miami has signed 19 players for camp, one shy of the maximum preseason allotment, and it was never a question why they kept that last spot open.
It was hardly a guarantee that Wade, a 22.5-point scorer for his career, would return.
His decision took months longer than some expected, partly because he was deciding what he wanted to do, partly because he was dealing with some personal business and some family business, and partly because it took him and the Heat some time to figure out what made sense for both sides. A person familiar with Wade’s thinking told The Associated Press that the guard was strongly considering retirement until late last week, when Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and others made a late push to help him decide.
Whatever they said apparently worked.
Wade’s return basically means that Miami will have the same team — a young, rising team it believes in many respects — this coming season as it had last season, when it went 44-38 and claimed the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
This time, though, the Heat will have Wade from the season’s outset.
Wade returned to the Heat in a trade last February, after spending the 2016-17 season with Chicago and the start of last season with Cleveland. He appeared in 26 games with Miami last season including playoffs, all off the bench and averaging 12.9 points.
The plan going into this season will be to keep Wade in that reserve role, probably somewhere between 20 and 25 minutes per game. While he likely won’t be starting games, it’s fairly certain that he’ll be finishing them — Spoelstra utilized Wade as a closer down the stretch of contests last season, and the role is one where Wade still flourishes.
Wade could have gotten a deal elsewhere, though moving to another team again was never a consideration for him this time around. He said repeatedly over the last several months that he would play with the Heat or nowhere, in large part because of family commitments — such as his son Zaire being a highly touted prospect about to go into his junior year of high school.
Wade spent much of the summer following him around the country and watching him play various tournaments, plus working out with him at times.
Wade also signed a lifetime contract this summer with Chinese apparel company Li-Ning, a brand he’s endorsed for the last several years. That seemed to be the first real indicator that he was leaning toward returning for a 16th season, and another hint came in late July when he posted a video on social media of him playing a pickup game with his son and making a reference to “Year 16.”
From there, it simply became a matter of Wade making up his mind.
“Let’s enjoy it,” Wade said. “Let’s have some joy through this last season. Let’s push this young team over the hump and let’s write our own story to the end of this career, together. Together.”
By TIM REYNOLDS, Associated Press