Like LeBron James before him, Dwyane Wade has decided the best way to leave the Miami Heat is to head home.
According to reports by both ESPN and The Vertical, the 34-year-old, 12-time All-Star, future Hall of Famer and face of the franchise, has agreed to sign with his hometown Chicago Bulls, pending the completion of trades that would clear up cap space.
Wade’s departure ends a glorious 13-year run with the Heat. Miami won three NBA titles and made five trips to the Finals with him as its leader.
But the relationship ended on bad terms with Wade, team president Pat Riley and the Heat squabbling over his contract.
Owner Micky Arison, who was able to mend the fences a year ago when Riley and Wade were at an impasse, met with Wade in New York Wednesday to try and smooth thing over. But it obviously didn’t work.
Wade, who will co-host the syndicated TV shot Live with Kelly at 9 a.m. EDT Thursday morning, balked at the Heat’s initial offer of two years, $40 million on Monday and was seeking more money and another year in a potential deal.
The Heat, though, appeared unwilling – and maybe in the toughest position of the teams vying for Wade – to provide that.
Although Miami could have tried to trade forward Josh McRoberts and the remaining two years and $11.8 million left on his contract to offer Wade a two-year deal worth $50 million, finding a taker might have required the Heat giving up a first round draft pick or even 20-year-old talent Justise Winslow.
The Bulls, who didn’t make it out to New York Wednesday to meet with Wade, began ramping up their efforts to sway him back home late Wednesday night according to The Vertical.
Chicago was shopping reserve point guard Jose Calderon and forward Mike Dunleavy in trades, moves that would help them create as much as $12.5 million in additional cap space to present to Wade. The Bulls had $12.7 million left in cap space at the start of the day.
The Denver Nuggets, who had the most to offer Wade financially and dangled a two-year, $52 million deal his way, left their 2 1 / 2 hour meeting with Wade feeling good about its chances according to the Denver Post. Former Heat teammate Mike Miller was part of the Nuggets’ pitch along with members of the front office. The Post, though, reported the Nuggets did not want to include a third year in the deal.
Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry also met with Wade in New York on Wednesday according to The Vertical. But the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported the meeting lasted just one hour and since the team hasn’t been able to create more salary cap space a deal with Wade was not expected to sign with them.
Thursday, the end of the league’s moratorium, is the first day free agents can sign contracts. The Heat, which has $20 million in cap space, can formally sign center Hassan Whiteside to the four-year, $98 million max contract he agreed to last Friday.
Once Whiteside signs the Heat will have seven players under contract for next season including forwards Chris Bosh, McRoberts, Winslow and guards Goran Dragic, Josh Richardson and Briante Weber.
With Wade gone, Miami can now turn its attention to other free agents and potentially guard Tyler Johnson, who agreed to sign a four-year, $50 million offer sheet with the Brooklyn Nets over the weekend.
The remaining free agent class has already been picked apart and is void of many other quality options.
After the remaining cap space is used up, Miami will can fill out its roster with a $2.9 room exception and league minimum contract offers.