Trojan Horse: Could Wade’s Interest In Free Agency Be Part of A Master Plan?
Call it the modern day Trojan Horse. Call it Pat Riley’s master plan. Call it the Great Whale Hunt of 2016. Or you can just call it crazy.
On Tuesday, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported that Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat have reached an impasse in initial contract negotiations and that Wade, who has spent all 13 seasons of his professional career with the Heat, will field outside offers in free agency.
With initial talks with Heat going slowly, Dwyane Wade letting it be known he's open to other offers: https://t.co/xHViyVgpGF
— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) June 29, 2016
As they did when Wade tested the free agency waters in 2015, a section of Heat Twitter needed to be talked off the ledge.
Ima be mad as hell if D Wade leaves.
— Thug Milky (@xZachhly) June 29, 2016
If Dwyane Wade leaves the Heat, I will cry. I am a grown man and I will be sobbing. Even just imagining MV3 in another team's jersey hurts.
— Anish Bhavsar (@Anish_B15) June 29, 2016
The day (if) Wade leaves Miami, is the day I go into the longest sports depression ever recorded in history.
— Nick Hurtado (@nah1023) June 29, 2016
This is where the master plan comes into play.
/activates 30 for 30 promo voice
What if I told you that Dwyane Wade’s sudden aspirations to become a free agent are all part of Pat Riley’s plan to retain Hassan Whiteside and land Kevin Durant?
— 790 The Ticket (@790TheTicket) June 29, 2016
In an interview on Ethan Skolnick and Chris Wittyngham’s 790 The Ticket radio show, Windhorst expanded on his earlier report, citing that Wade’s representatives have reached out to the Spurs and the Mavericks to gauge their interest.
While there may well be other teams that Wade’s representatives have reached out to, the two teams mentioned have strong connections to the Heat’s 2016 free agency plans.
The Mavericks are widely viewed as the Heat’s biggest competition for Whiteside, with Mark Cuban and the Dallas front office prepared to offer Whiteside max dollars at 12:01 a.m. on Friday.
The Heat are also poised for a bidding war with the Spurs over the prized possession of this year’s free agency class, Kevin Durant. It is possible that Pat Riley views the Spurs as his biggest competition in the Durant sweepstakes.
It may be a coincidence, but the connections between the Heat’s plans and the two teams reported should be something to keep in mind.
Is it possible that Wade’s representatives are working with the Heat front office in an attempt to divert the Maverick’s attention away from Whiteside and the Spurs’ attention away from Durant?
If Wade went so far as to secure meetings with both teams, valuable time and resources that could be used for pitches to Durant and Whiteside would likely be used to create presentations for Wade, giving the Heat an advantage in the free agency process. There may be some evidence to suggest that a plan may be in place.
On the surface, it would appear unlikely that Wade would have interest in either market.
Wade and the Mavericks have a long and well-documented history, with Wade delivering one of the all-time great Finals performances against Dallas in ’06 and the Mavs besting the newly formed big three in ’11.
In February, Cuban admitted that he has not interacted with Wade since the ’06 Finals.
“Never,” Cuban told the Miami Herald. “The one time I had a chance was right after those Finals, during an ESPN commercial shoot. Walked right past me. Wouldn’t even say hi. But like I said, it was a long time ago. Just never had the opportunity.”
For Wade to reach out to a team owned by a man that he appears to have no interest in befriending is odd, to say the least.
As for the Spurs, despite being the most stable organization in sports and achieving sustained success on the court, San Antonio is one of the smallest markets in the NBA.
According to a Nielsen study, of the cities with NBA teams, San Antonio is the sixth smallest market.
There is also an element of past Finals history between the two parties, with the Spurs handing Wade and the Heat a Finals loss in 2014 that ultimately served as a bookend for the big three era.
With all that said, it may be comments made by Wade himself during the course of last season that can be used as the strongest evidence of a master plan.
“The whole free agency thing, I didn’t want to be in it last summer; I don’t want to be in it this summer,” Wade told the Miami Herald in February. “I don’t want to be on the market at all….I’m not curious at all. I want to get to it [with the Heat]. I want to be able to sign my deal and move on and not have to deal with any rumors, any free agency, any this, any that. This is where I want to end my career. So, we’ll figure it out.”
As we sit and await the beginning of what promises to be a chaotic free agency period, Wade seems to find himself tied up in the exact scenario he hoped to avoid.
While this may be exactly what it appears on the surface, a battle between a superstar that wants to be paid money that he feels that he has earned and a team that wishes to retain financial flexibility, a grand plan shouldn’t be considered out of the realm of possibility.
After all, Pat Riley secured a meeting with LaMarcus Aldridge last year despite having no money to offer and, many people believe, implored Aldridge to take a one year deal so that the Heat could revisit contract negotiations with him this offseason.
That move was unconventional, if not unprecedented, so why put it past the organization to be thinking steps ahead of the competition?