A Fleeting Dream: Wade, Riley, and The Amalfi Coast
The beauty of the Amalfi Coast is truly one of the world’s most transcendent scenes. Located on the western Italian coast, its beauty is fleeting for travelers as life tends to feel different when looking out into the emerald Tyrrhenian Sea.
So as Miami Heat President Pat Riley told reporters on Thursday about his Amalfian vacation with Heat owner Micky Arison, it’s understandable that Dwyane Wade’s contract status is still pending. However, much like the beauty of Amalfi, the dream of Wade playing a 16th season in Miami seems fleeting too.
When asked about the current negotiations, Riley gave no real answers besides the anticipated “we are in communications” cliché that is all too common in free-agency dealings. The most telling answer, however, was a non-answer to a question about whether Miami would offer Wade the $5.3 million taxpayer mid-level exception.
“I don’t think this is about negotiating a mid-level or dollars,” Riley said at a ceremonial groundbreaking of The Miami Heat Sports Medicine Center at the Miami Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Institute. “It’s about getting Dwyane back.”
Pat wouldn’t come out and say that the Heat will give Dwyane Wade the $5.3M today. Which might mean they won’t. Or might mean they’re not telling us yet. Everything else we already knew — they want Dwyane and UD back, they’re close on a UD deal and they need to talk to Dwyane.
— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) August 23, 2018
Riley’s unwillingness to say the taxpayer’s mid-level exception would get offered is revealing. The Heat, with their current roster, is over the luxury-tax threshold ($124 million) at a salary of $128 million.
The tricky part, as pointed out by salary cap expert Albert Nahmad, is that Wade’s $5.3 million maximum salary would trigger a $12 million tax bill for the Heat because of their luxury-tax standing, as opposed to a $4 million bill should Wade take a $2.4 million veteran-minimum deal.
Dwyane Wade would currently project to cost the Miami Heat somewhere around $15M – $16M if he were to get the $5.3M T-MLE, versus about $4M at his $2.4M minimum salary. https://t.co/73pBRsTANF
— Albert Nahmad (@AlbertNahmad) August 23, 2018
This felt like calculated trepidation on Riley’s part not to overpromise. It was striking when juxtaposed to his comments about Udonis Haslem.
“I have a real good feeling that UD is going to be back,” Riley said with a pep in voice. A hopefulness void of him when discussing Wade. “It’s just a gut feeling about UD and what he wants to do. I feel good that he is in.”
With Haslem, Riley had braying confidence. With Wade, it was non-answers and platitudes. The vibes that Riley gave off felt palpably different for both. As his media availability pertained to Wade, it was filled with wants, not promises.
“We want Dwyane to be a part of this,” he said. “We want him back as a winner.
“We know our young guys, and we need to anchor our young team with a veteran presence of the both of them … He and Udonis, we want them back. But we’re giving them space.”
In a conference call last month, Riley said he hoped to have decisions from Wade and Haslem by mid-August. But amid Riley’s summer vacation eating pizza and meatballs with Arison, as well as Wade’s planned business meetings with his marketing team in California, the two have yet to connect. Riley believes they will have a better understanding of their situation after Sept. 3.
“Let’s wait ’til after Labor Day,” he said. “I think that’s always sort of the drop-dead date for players.”
While Riley left the door open for hope, it wasn’t the impression I was left with.
“We are giving him his space,” he said. “Now that I’m back in town, and we’re really ramping up for training camp…I will have a conversation with him somewhere shortly.”
That shortly can’t come soon enough. As the countdown to the start of the 2018-19 NBA season has just begun, the dream of a Wade retirement tour feels a lot like the fleeting beauty of Amalfi.