Immediately after news broke of Kevin Durant opting to join the Golden State Warriors in free agency, Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade tweeted "Relationships are important." He did so from a yacht in the middle of the Balearic Sea, close enough to Ibiza to get a geotagged Snapchat filter, having spent the last few days alongside Chris Paul and LeBron James. Less than 24 hours later, we get word that Wade and the Cleveland Cavaliers are in preliminary talks for the 34-year-old shooting guard to reunite with James, but doing so along Lake Erie instead of Biscayne Bay.
Late Sunday night, Twitter was an inferno of rumors regarding Wade and a flight from Miami to Cleveland, taking fans back to the summer of 2014 where flight tracking was all the rage. Whether or not Wade was in fact on the flight many were discussing remains to be seen, but the headwinds the Cavaliers face to make any sort of deal happen remain very, very large. For starters, the Cavs just cut a $54 million luxury tax bill for their NBA championship-winning payroll from a season ago. Having watched Timofey Mozgov and Matthew Dellavedova leave in free is the first sign that the team has to be efficient with their dollars, but even having their contracts off of the books leaves GM David Griffin with very little to work with.
Two options remain. The first involves Wade taking the $3.3 million tax-payer exemption, meaning that Wade would have to be willing to be compensated at roughly one-fourth the rate of Mozgov will be following his six-point, four-rebound season. The second involves a sign-and-trade of some sort, with Iman Shumpert (and his $10 million salary) likely serving as a starting point to make this happen. This, of course, would mean that the Cavs and Heat would have to play nice despite some leftover resentment following James' return to Cleveland in July of 2014. 1
Wade is reportedly unhappy with the Heat, a team that he feels is taking him for granted when it comes to contract negotiations (the latest of which is a two-year, $40 million deal that would allow the team to retain center Hassan Whiteside). He's started taking visits with other teams, most notably the Milwaukee Bucks later this week (Update: This meeting has reportedly been canceled according to multiple outlets.) The Cavaliers topped a 73-win Warriors team to win the NBA title, a move that was one of the many dominos that led to Durant signing, ironically, on Independence Day. The Warriors were already favored to win the 2016-17 championship, but the Durant move makes it that much more likely. Though there are 28 other teams in the league, this is slowly morphing into a two-team race for the Larry O'Brien, and Wade realizing that his $40 million deal in Miami would be merely that, things could get very interesting over the coming days. Of course, Wade could be using every oter team or leverage or skip out on Miami and Cleveland while hitching his wagon to Jason Kidd in Milwaukee, and leave us all scratching our heads. It's the NBA—nothing is ever out of the question.
Relationships, after all, are important. Which relationships, however, remain the question.
1 The other variable here is the Cavaliers front office renouncing LeBron James' $29 million cap hold, but this is way down the CBA rabbit hole. If he was renounced but re-signed with the Cavs, he would still have full Bird rights next offseason, entitling him to a "supermax" deal. But he's also the VP of the NBPA and there's a new CBA in the works. Would it look good for the brightest star in the league to take less money in advance of a negotiation surrounding players being eligible to make more?