MIAMI -- Dwyane Wade is back with the Miami Heat. Even after the All-Star guard opted out of his contract last month, it was clear he wasn't going anywhere.
In the wake of LeBron James leaving South Florida for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat President Pat Riley announced Wade's return on Tuesday with a statement that stressed "commitment" and "sacrifice."
Wade's latest agreement demonstrates both, a two-year contract starting below the 2014-15 maximum deal James took in departing to Cleveland, with a player option for the second year.
The length is similar to the two-year contract forward Luol Deng took from the Heat over the weekend, with that $20 million agreement also including a player option in the second year.
The approach with Wade and Deng further indicates Riley's intentions to have the Heat as major players in 2016 free agency, when Kevin Durant and several other leading players can be free agents.
Wade, 32, had opted out of the two years, $42 million he had on his previous contract to afford the Heat flexibility in NBA free agency. Now that flexibility will extend over the course of his latest contract.
"Dwyane," Riley said in a statement, "has been the franchise cornerstone for this team since the day he arrived 11 years ago. He has shown his commitment to the Heat many times over the course of his career and has always been willing to sacrifice in order to help build this team into a champion.
"This time is no different. I am ecstatic to have him back in the fold and I am confident that Dwyane, as always, will be leading this team as we look to contend for NBA championships."
Wade essentially broke the news of his return when he posted a picture on Instagram of himself at AmericanAirlines Arena, with a caption that read, "Home Is Where The Heart Is... My Home,My City,My House..#HeatLifer."
Wade returns in a considerably larger role in the wake of James' departure.
Instead of a Big Three, the Heat will now go with a Twin Tandem approach, with center Chris Bosh last week agreeing to a five-year, $118 million contract.
At the moment, Bosh is positioned with the only Heat contract that extended beyond the 2016 offseason.
Wade missed 28 games this past regular season, mostly due to ongoing knee issues, before returning with a strong start to the playoffs and then a struggle against the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals that the Heat lost 4-1.
Like James, Wade remains one of six players in NBA history with career averages of at least 24 points, five rebounds and five assists.
A 10-time NBA All-Star, having spent all 11 of his seasons with the franchise, Wade is the Heat's all-time leader in points (17,481), field goals made (6,276), free throws made (4,579), double-figure scoring games (691), assists (4,301), steals (1,262), starts (710), games played (719) and minutes played (26,331).
He also ranks among the teams all-time leaders in blocks (2nd, 696), double-doubles (4th, 116), total rebounds (4th, 3,605), defensive rebounds (4th, 2,669), offensive rebounds (5th, 936), field-goal percentage (7th, .492) and 3-pointers made (8th, 350). Additionally, his 696 career blocks are the sixth-most by a guard in NBA history.
In the wake of the Finals, Wade declined to put the blame on his diminished play on his knees or any other ailment.
"Just struggled a little bit," he said. "As I told you guys, I'm never going to point at anything physically. I felt fine. I just struggled a little bit offensively. You know, I wish I could have done more, but it's the nature of the game, you know. So nothing physically at all."
After those Finals, Wade appeared to sense that the end could be near for his partnership with James, with those two and Bosh having joined together in July 2010, a union engineered by Wade.
"It's been a hell of a ride in these four years," Wade said. "And when we decided to play together, we didn't say, 'OK, let's try for four years.' We said let's just play together and let's see what happens."
The Heat advanced to the NBA Finals in all four seasons with Wade, James and Bosh, winning NBA titles in 2012 and '13. Wade also won an NBA championship in 2006, alongside Shaquille O'Neal.
"We've been successful in the sense of what we tried to accomplish, and that is going to the Finals, and we did it," Wade said after the NBA Finals. "We'd love to be four for four, it just wasn't in the cards for us to be that.
"We have no other reason not to be proud of each other for what we've accomplished on and off the court for these four years together."
Last week, when James announced his agreement with the Cavaliers, Wade issued a statement of thanks to James that read:
"As a friend and a teammate, I am sad to see my brother LeBron leave to begin a new journey. In 2010, we decided to come together all for one goal -- to win championships and we succeeded.
"We were friends when we first joined the league and created an unbreakable bond the past four years. Our collaboration will always be very special to me both personally and professionally. We shared something unique and he will always be part of my family.
"LeBron made the right decision for himself and his family because home is where your heart is. I know this was not an easy decision to make and I support him in returning to his roots.
"As an organization, a community, and as individuals, we achieved the goals we set when we first signed on together. We are champions."
email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/iraheatbeat
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