NBA: Heat could be associated with superstar Dwyane Wade for last time
By Ethan J. Skolnick
MIAMI — Savor this.
Savor it no matter what the score.
Savor it because you may not see it again.
Dwyane Wade playing for you.
"I've been focusing on this series and basketball more so than thinking forward," a relaxed, playful Wade said Saturday, after what may have been the final Heat practice, before what may be his final Heat game. "So I won't know. And I don't know."
So here we are, with Wade's Heat down 3-0 to the Boston Celtics. Here we are, so near elimination, so close to the summer. Yet here we are, really no closer to knowing whether the second-greatest athlete in South Florida sports history plans on sticking around.
He has played it out. He has played with us. He has played it perfectly, so perfectly that Phil Ivey would be proud. He has been hearing the same questions since the summer, when he chose not to sign an extension. He has chosen neither to reassure nor to alarm. He has offered clues — frequently referring to the Heat as "us" when speaking about the summer prospects — but stopped short of supplying us with clear conclusions.
So now the fear is near. One more ill-timed cramp, one more coaching error, one more Jermaine O'Neal miss, and that could be the one that ends the basketball games and starts the guessing game in earnest:
Will Wade stay?
So will he? Sure, makes sense. Money, weather, nightlife, comfort. Not to mention Pat Riley, who has helped him deliver one championship here, and who must know something to stake his reputation (and the Heat's marketing efforts) on the promise this will be a successful summer.
Could Wade go? Sure he could. You can't objectively say otherwise.
Making the Mecca matter again? That's appealing. New York is superstar-starved, and Wade would instantly be the third-biggest active athlete in the biggest sports city, behind the aging Derek Jeter and the polarizing Alex Rodriguez.
Chicago? That's home, and it's hard to know whether that helps or hurts. His wife, the counterparty in a contentious divorce, is there. So, however, are his kids. And so is a roster that may be equal — if not superior — to anything that Riley can reasonably construct, especially if the summer talent pool continues to thin.
The Bulls don't need to outbid others for Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah. All are already there. So is the Kirk Hinrich chip. You think Wade would run from the Jordan shadow? Well, then why does he run in the legend's shoes?
Then there's the dark horse: the Nets. Don't laugh. Rich owner. Promising point guard (Devin Harris) and center (Brook Lopez) combination. Lottery pick. Planned move to Brooklyn in two seasons. A chance to build something new with another megastar.
Wade's heard all this. He'll probably laugh if he reads this, as he did Saturday, when told that former Marlins outfielder Cliff Floyd ("Who's that?") said on radio that he knew Wade was leaving.
"It's funny to hear scenarios," Wade said. "In New York, they tried to make me say that I have thought about it and I have talked to LeBron. It's funny that people are inside my head that way."
He doesn't expect any special fan signs today, begging him to stay. He's been getting it all year.
"If I see 10 people, it happens 10 times," he said.
"Whether it's a kid or a grown person, it doesn't matter. Sometimes you get annoyed with it, and sometimes you smile and understand that, you know, people kind of like me a little bit out here, and like what I do for the city. So it's a great feeling as well.
"I honestly don't know what to say," he continued. "I don't, honestly, I don't know. I won't ponder it until the season is over, and I have to sit down and think about it."
So what should we say when fans ask?
"Tell them to wait and see," he said, grinning again. "Wade and see, if you want to be cool with it."
We may tell you that tomorrow. Sunday, simply savor it.