Dwyane Wade continues to drop hints that he's leaning toward opting out of his Heat contract and seems to be increasingly considering leaving Miami. The dispute, at heart, is all about money — not just money, but promised money. Wade took some pay cuts to help assemble the Big Three, and now he wants to be compensated. The team, though, is hesitant to give an aging star a huge deal.
But the fact is that the Heat simply cannot let Wade leave. Here's why.
Hassan Whiteside can't be trusted yet.
Listen, Hassan Whiteside is great — but you can't deny he is still largely an unknown at this point in his career. Prioritizing a guy who has played 48 games in a Miami Heat uniform sends the wrong message to not only Dwyane Wade but also to players the Miami Heat might try to sign in the future. Can the Heat really continue to sell itself as an all-class family-based organization after letting Wade walk under these circumstances? You can be sure the details of promises the team made to Wade will come out, and those broken promises won't be a good look for the Heat organization.
Everyone knows Whiteside's elevator doesn't always go to the top floor. Take care of Wade, and worry about locking up the head case who has played about 30 good games in a Heat uniform a bit down the road.
If Wade walks out that door, so does the "Heat Lifer" campaign.
Cancel that #HeatLifer slogan if Wade gets cut loose 12 months later. The entire Heat Lifer thing came off as trying too hard from the get-go to many. While nice for some, real Heat fans didn't need to be told that everything was going to be OK. We didn't need a hug; we needed better signings than Danny Granger and Josh McRoberts. Leaving Wade in the wind here will represent the opposite of the Heat Lifer motto and delete everything the organization has stood for since Micky Arison took over.
Usually you get what you pay for. In this instance, the Heat would be paying for what Wade has given this city, and its team, for more than a decade. What is that relationship really worth?
The summer free-agent class of 2016 is overrated, and the Heat definitely won't land Kevin Durant.
People would have called you crazy in 2010 if you'd said LeBron James would head to the Heat, but it happened. Well, the fact is you're crazy if you think all the things that need to fall into place for Kevin Durant to come to Miami next summer will happen. The biggest reason: Durant has no ties to anyone on this Heat roster, and the dominoes that need to fall aren't happening this time around. The Heat is much likelier to settle for a fifth-place prize or a grab bag of seventh-place prizes, because many of the best free agents will have already been scooped up.
The Heat made its big splash when it gave Bosh the max and traded two-first round picks for Goran Dragic. There is no reason to gamble Wade's legacy on the fact that a miracle might happen next year.
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Losing Wade could also mean losing Goran Dragic.
Goran Dragic has made it quite clear — he's a fan of playing alongside Dwyane Wade. Dragic has plenty of options this offseason, including bolting to bigger markets like New York or L.A., so messing with him when he's free to leave doesn't seem like the best idea. Dragic has bragged since he got here how amazed he has been by how the Heat players carry themselves, and loves his new teammates — but things change fast. Money talks, but messing around with Dragic when you just spent two first-round picks to get him seems ill-advised.
Pat Riley's legacy in Miami would take a hit.
It's grown quite obvious over the last two seasons that Pat Riley is hell-bent on getting back to the top one more time before he retires. Riley has become grouchier and less laid-back in the past 24 months — maybe finally realizing his best days in the NBA are behind him.
Being so cutthroat with Dwyane Wade at the end of his tremendous Miami tenure would stain a spotless resumé in South Florida. It's just pointless to burn bridges, especially if some of those bridges lead back to Pat Riley's legacy.