Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh told the Miami Heat on Saturday they are opting out of their contracts and will become free agents on Tuesday — the same decision LeBron James revealed during the week.
Also, Udonis Haslem told the Heat he will not pick up his $4.6 million option for next season.
Strange as it may sound, all those decisions to become free agents are considered good for the Heat, since those four moves alone free up about $66 million in what would have been salary for next season. It also gives Miami tons of flexibility to lure those players back into new deals – plus have enough money left over to make additional roster upgrades.
“Dwyane has been the cornerstone of our organization for over a decade, and we hope he remains a part of the Heat family for life,” Heat President Pat Riley said. “Udonis has been the heartbeat of this team for 11 years. He has sacrificed countless times to make this organization successful, and he is the epitome of what this organization stands for.
“We look forward to meeting with Dwyane and Udonis and their agent in the coming days to discuss our future together.”
The Heat did not immediately confirm Bosh’s decision. A person with knowledge of the move said Bosh told the Heat that not only was he opting out, but that he was hoping to find a way to stay in Miami.
It’s expected that each of the “Big 3” will talk to other teams when the free-agent shopping window opens on Tuesday. James has already been mentioned as a target of the Los Angeles Clippers, the Chicago Bulls, the Houston Rockets – and, of course, the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team for whom he spent his first seven seasons before he, Wade and Bosh teamed up in Miami during the summer of 2010.
But things are already looking good for Miami, which got the rights to guard Shabazz Napier on draft night – and Napier just happened to be James’ favorite player in the draft.
In the deals they signed with Miami, all three had the option to become free agents either this summer or next. There’s obviously no guarantee that all or any would return to the Heat, but it’s also hard to envision all three going their separate ways after making four trips to the NBA Finals together and winning two championships.
“I’m not dropping championship rings on the table for those guys,” Riley said, referring to his famous recruiting trick from 2010. “They can drop their own.”
Wade took a considerable amount of criticism this past season, first for missing 28 regular-season games – largely because of what the Heat called a maintenance program for his long-problematic knees – and then for struggling in the NBA Finals. Wade averaged 24.3 points per game in his first 11 seasons and is unquestionably the most accomplished player in Heat history, leading the franchise’s all-time lists in several categories.
Riley calls Wade “an icon” and remains sold on his value to a championship team, though acknowledges that at 32 and with plenty of injuries in his past, some continued evolution to his game – and perhaps his role – could be needed.