Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press had news of Wade's new deal first:
One can't help but notice Wade's contract will pay him less than the one he opted out of at the beginning of free agency. Remember, he had the Heat on the hook for $42 million through the 2015-16 campaign before giving it up as part of a plan to rebuild the team's championship core around LeBron James.
But the best-laid plans...well, you know the rest.
Wade's sacrifice shouldn't come as a surprise; he's been loyal to the Heat, the only team he's ever known, forever. After leading Miami to its first championship in 2006, he relinquished a little cash and a lot of pride by taking a secondary role behind James.
Now, he's returning to a team with vastly diminished postseason prospects when he could easily have gone elsewhere to chase rings in the twilight of his career.
I guess James isn't the only one who felt the inescapable pull of "home" this summer.
To be fair, it's not like Wade is getting totally hosed on his new contract. Yes, it stings that he gave up another $8 million over two years by opting out—probably almost as much as the realization that Miami will be nothing close to the contender it was last season.
But guards who can't shoot with range and lack elite size age horribly in the NBA, and Wade falls firmly into that category. Toss in knees that continued to limit him last year, and it's tough to see him getting anything close to Miami's offer on the open market.
Even if Wade were paid by the pump fake (his increasing use of which is one of the clearest signs of athletic decline), he wouldn't have cashed in this big elsewhere.
A colder approach by Miami would have featured a low-ball offer. Instead, it paid him handsomely for what ESPN.com's Kevin Pelton (subscription required) believes will be the last two star-quality seasons of his career:
Wade sat out 28 games and played fewer minutes than backup guard Norris Cole. As a result, his 6.5 wins above replacement player (WARP) was his lowest total since his rookie season.
That trend is unlikely to reverse direction. If Wade played the same minutes as 2013-14, my SCHOENE projection system estimates he'd produce 6.5 WARP next season, and a similar total in 2015-16. But by 2016-17, based on the aging of players like Wade, he'd drop to 4.5 WARP -- similar to Pau Gasol's performance last season, for sake of comparison.
Treating Wade any other way would have resulted in a PR disaster, and Wade's complicity in quietly working out a deal was good for all parties involved.
Chris Bosh will remain a core piece, the team's max-money anchor who'll be under contract for five seasons. Short-term deals for veterans like Luol Deng indicate the rest of the Heat's roster situation will be far more fluid.
Essentially, Wade's deal lets the Heat stay competitive (and flexible) for a year or two as they position themselves for another big free-agent run in 2015 or 2016.
The year after that, some guy named Kevin Durant will become available.
Wade can opt out next summer if he has a good enough year to warrant a new deal, or if the Heat want him to do it again to free them up. But he can also sit tight knowing he's got another $17 million coming in 2016 if he wants it.
Either way, Wade staying and getting a nice payday makes Miami appealing to free agents—not that there wasn't already plenty of appeal to playing in South Beach.
Loyalty is something every team talks about, and most pitch it as a selling point to free agents. Of course most teams also refer to players as "assets" and talk about "accumulating" them like they're some kind of fungible commodity which, ultimately, is mostly true.
The Heat are different, though. When they talk about loyalty, they back it up.
There's some evidence of that in Wade's thoughts on sticking around, as relayed by Reynolds:
We've seen the other side of situations like this. Chandler Parsons felt like an afterthought in the Houston Rockets' list of free-agency priorities—probably because he was. His decision to sign an offer sheet with the Dallas Mavericks was a direct result of that treatment, per Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports, and it left the Rockets searching for fallback options.
Because of the history of loyalty built up between Wade and the Heat over the years, the result in Miami is far different.
Wade knows the Heat will take care of him down the road, so he had no reservations about returning on a short-term deal that was beneficial for both parties. In doing so, the guy who started the first great era of hoops in Miami might have set it up so the next one comes sooner than later.