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Art Garcia

LeBron James and Dwyane Wade could find themselves becoming teammates after this summer.
Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Heat willing to build around Wade -- if he'll have them

Posted Feb 21 2010 11:13AM

The conventional wisdom is that Heat czar Pat Riley has to show Dwyane Wade more than the money. He has to show him commitment. Riles has to prove to D-Wade that the Heat are ready and able to win big ... again.

What more proof does Wade need?

For those keeping score in June, Miami did the whole parade thing once. Riley saw a team on the brink of greatness, traded for the most dominant big man of the last quarter century and jettisoned a coach with a winning record to return to the sidelines. He did it for Wade.

The Heat stood at the top of the NBA heap in 2006, having authored the greatest comeback in Finals history with D-Wade holding the pen. He also held the Finals MVP trophy and walked from South Beach into cell phone stardom.

Four years later, stories from South Florida and across the NBA landscape point to Wade's suspect supporting cast as the reason he'll jump ship this summer. Never mind the efforts to bring in a capable No. 2 after Shaquille O'Neal.

The Heat gave Shawn Marion an audition, hoping the swingman combo would overwhelm foes with their athleticism. Marion was flipped for another O'Neal, Jermaine, to bring back the inside-outside attack. The Heat also tried to upgrade through the draft, turning a lottery season into second pick Michael Beasley less than two years ago.

Riley attempted to pry Amar'e Stoudemire out of Phoenix, a move Wade was said to endorse, but the Suns had no interest in Beasley as part of the return package, so Miami stood pat Thursday. Its only real move of the season was bringing back Rafer Alston after he was cut loose in New Jersey.

When considering the plights of other NBA stars in search of a ring, Wade's situation is curious at best. Kevin Garnett stood by the Timberwolves until it was clear it wouldn't happen in Minnesota. Karl Malone stuck it out in Utah until nearly the end of his career before chasing the gold with the Lakers. Clyde Drexler got close in Portland before winning a title in hometown Houston.

Wade hasn't suffered a career of close calls. He hasn't banged his head on the door for years with a team that was good but not just good enough. He's 28. This is only his seventh season. He won a title in Year 3.

If anything, D-Wade deserves to be the patient one. He should stick with the rebuilding process through another contract extension. Loyalty is a two-way street, not a one-lane highway. To his credit, Wade relayed as much during All-Star weekend in Dallas.

"I've said it so many times: That's the place I want to build," he said of Miami. "We just have to get people to come, and if we get people to come, why would I leave?"

So why all the speculation that he might? The Windy City native could take the place of a certain No. 23 who's immortalized outside of the United Center.

"I love Chicago, of course, so it's always exciting, it's always fun to think about that, but I'm really not thinking about being in another uniform," he said. "I'm thinking about building a dynasty in Miami. That would be ideal, but we don't live in an ideal world. But that's an ideal situation for me."

Wade should be the Heat's lead recruiter instead of the five-star recruit lining up visits.

The Heat's front office understands the position Wade is in, adding that he's earned the right to choose. If Wade opts out of the $17.1 million he's owed after this season as expected, he immediately jumps to the top of the free agency class with LeBron James, who's in the same contract position.

D-Wade and LeBron stoked the fires of a potential pairing in Dallas.

Cap space following 2010 Trade Deadline
New York $21,571,737 $32,028,263
New Jersey $27,170,659 $26,429,341
Miami $32,254,326 $21,345,674
Washington $34,454,130 $18,943,379
Chicago $35,662,116 $17,937,884
Sacramento $36,454,130 $17,145,870
L.A. Clippers $38,235,273 $15,364,727
Minnesota $41,004,156 $12,595,844
Oklahoma City $42,104,151 $11,495,849
Projected salary cap for next season is ~$53.6 million.

"He's one of the best players on the planet," James said. "You want to play with guys that are great and want to win and want to compete at a high level every night. We'll see."

Would we see that in Miami, which sports at least $21 million in cap space this summer? Or Cleveland? Or New York?

"We all talk as players," Wade said. "We know who's a free agent and what players your game would continue to blossom with. So when the summer comes and it gets down to where we have to look and decide, I'm sure we will. Right now, it's just all, it's all talk. I could come out and say: Oh man, I would love to play with LeBron. Then the next week, I could say I would love to play with Chris Bosh. I mean, we would love to play with great players."

Miami coach Erik Spoelstra, one of the league's bright young minds, has overseen the rebuilding process since taking the reins before last season. The Heat returned to the playoffs last year and sit seventh in the Eastern Conference this season.

Heat owner Micky Arison has shown the willingness to spend and won't shy away from the luxury tax, like many of the peers, if the opportunity to win is there. That would be much easier with Wade.

Art Garcia has covered the NBA since 1999. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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