Oh, what a difference a basketball season makes. Last July, Dwyane Wade's decision to leave in free agency for the Chicago Bulls had the overwhelming majority of Miami Heat fans up in arms. They laughed, they cried, they laugh-cried, they drank heavily. What was a Heat team without the man who was the centerpiece of every championship basketball squad that Miami has ever had? What was a Heat game without the introduction of a shooting guard from Robbins, Illinois? Forty games into this Heat season, the answer was depressing. Depressing was what life without Wade was like.
But then things got weird. The Heat has had the best record in the NBA since then. This resurgence, coupled with the Chicago Bulls' tumbling in the standings and news of Wade's fractured elbow, has Heat some fans wondering if Miami would even want him back.
It's amazing to contemplate, but if Wade turns down his player option of more than $23 million this offseason, would the Heat, and it fans, even want Wade back for anything less than a bargain-basement contract? It's a question many Heat fans on social media have been asking in recent weeks.
Maybe, just maybe, Pat Riley knew what he was doing when he gave Wade the cold shoulder at the most critical time in free agency. Maybe, just maybe, he wasn't caught off-guard when Wade left but, rather, wanted to start with a fresh slate this season without having to cater to Wade's on-court needs.
Or maybe this Heat season has all been a happy accident that grabbed a tree on
DWYANE WADE IS NOT COMING BACK TO THE HEAT ... GET OVER IT!!— Alf (@Alf954) March 16, 2017
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Wade hasn't exactly found the Fountain of Youth in Chicago. He battled through the usual nicks and bruises a 35-year-old guard is expected to experience until he broke his elbow last week. He still averaged 18 points a game on 43 percent shooting this season, though, so it's not as if he's turned into just another player. The issue is that Wade is no longer a player who can be the star of a championship-caliber team.
If he returned to Miami, he would have to be a complementary piece on a contract that made sense. If a return is in the cards, it would have to be on the Miami Heat's terms, not his. Whether it's next year as a piece of the puzzle or in 2019 on a farewell tour, it would have to make sense for the Heat.
For Heat fans, the loss of Wade stings less every day. The love is still there, but the need for Wade to be on the team is no longer a necessity. When, and if, the time comes to decide if Wade can return to Miami, fans will likely trust in the organization to make a decision that isn't based on emotion but on good basketball sense.