The Miami Heat brain trust of Pat Riley and Micky Arison needs to stop messing around with team superstar Dwyane Wade. Riley should tell Arison to open up his $7.1 billion wallet and make Wade the highest-paid player on the Heat.
Since being drafted in 2003, Wade has been forced to make financial sacrifices for the good of the Heat. He took less money in 2010 so Miami could sign LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Heat lifer Udonis Haslem.
Last year, Wade left $10 million on the table so the team could offer James a maximum contract. After LeBron spurned them, Riley and Arison made Bosh the team's highest-paid player to prevent him from bolting to the Houston Rockets.
Fast-forward 12 months. Riley is focused on re-signing point guard Goran Dragic, acquired in a trade with the Phoenix Suns earlier this year. Riley expects Wade to renew the second year of a contract that pays him $16.1 million.
But Wade has let the Heat know he wants a maximum long-term contract and will enter free agency. Riley and Arison have been acting like ingrates.
Media reports keep saying the Heat doesn't want to miss out on prized free agents in 2016 like Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis by going over the NBA's salary cap, which will happen if Miami offers both Dragic and Wade maximum contracts.
The Heat should be asking everybody but Wade to take a pay cut. He's the shining star of the organization. Other players come to Miami to win championships with him. James may have made it back to a fifth consecutive NBA Finals this year, but he still hasn't won a title without Wade.
And Dragic is a good player, but let's see if he's willing to take less money to show he feels the same way about the Heat as Wade does.
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Allowing Wade to leave by not paying him the money he seeks would tarnish the Heat's reputation as a stand-up franchise. And players around the league will take notice because Wade is one of the good guys. The NBA really stands for "Negro Basketball Association" — because the players run the show.
It's time to pay Wade his due.
Follow Luke on Twitter: @unclelukereal1.