Miami Heat: Dwyane Wade LA Lakers rumors feel manufactured

Dwyane Wade is headed to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who can’t pay him, or to the Los Angeles Lakers, where he can’t contend, depending on which popular rumor you want to believe. The veteran Miami Heat star has the option to opt out of his contract and either re-sign with the team for a different dollar amount or take his talents elsewhere, and there have been hints that he just might do that. But the LA Lakers rumors feel manufactured, and it’s difficult to picture Wade leaving a franchise in which he’s the centerpiece in its entire history. Also, we’ve been down this road with him before.

The Miami Heat are still refining their roster in the post LeBron James era. Dwyane Wade proved over the past season that he could be a healthy and productive full time player, putting up some of his best numbers in years. Unfortunately for him, he was one of the few Heat players who did stay healthy last year, with everyone from Chris Bosh to newcomer Goran Dragic to rising star Hassan Whiteside succumbing to injury and keeping the team out of the playoffs. With the eastern conference still weak, Miami should be in position to prosper next season and face James in the conference finals. That alone makes the talk of Dwyane Wade leaving down seem incongruous.

And yet the rumors abound. The first was that Wade was headed to the Cleveland Cavaliers. That quickly got shot down by the fact that the Cavs don’t have the cap space to pay him more than a small fraction of what he’s making in Miami, and the logic that he wouldn’t want to go right back to being under appreciated due to playing in LeBron’s shadow. After all, Wade almost single handedly won an NBA championship in 2006, yet received little credit for the two rings he won after James arrived, amid the national narrative that James was the only contributor on those teams.

Miami Heat fans know better, of course. Accordingly, the popular sentiment among team fans on social outlets like Twitter is that they want the team to go ahead and pay Dwyane Wade. The catch is that he’s twice taken pay cuts, once five years ago in the name of making room for James and other free agents, and again a year ago in the hope of enticing James to stick around. The team can’t ask him to do so again, so it must evaluate what he has left in the tank against what he thinks he’s worth.

And that may be where the LA Lakers rumors come into play. Unlike Cleveland, the Lakers have the cap space to pay Wade what he wants. The trouble: if he heads there, the relevant part of his career is over, as the team won’t have finished rebuilding itself until after Wade has retired. This feels like Wade is manufacturing the Lakers rumors as leverage, in the hopes of getting the Miami Heat to pay him more. If so, it has echoes of 2010 when he suggested he might join the Chicago Bulls. No one among the fan base believed he might actually leave, and no one believes it now. But what matters is whether the Heat front office is willing to act on the mere suggestion.

Despite its use of players like Shaquille O’Neal and LeBron James as essentially mid-career rentals, the Miami Heat under Pat Riley has prided itself in keeping its hometown players within the fold during and after their playing days. Alonzo Mourning, the second most central player in Heat history behind Wade, is now an executive with the team. Keith Askins, another Heat lifer, is a coach. Udonis Haslem is likely already being fitted for a post-career job with the team once he retires.

Upon retirement, Dwyane Wade gets almost any well-compensated job within the Miami Heat organization he wants. But that gets trickier for both sides if he bolts for another team for his final few seasons, even as the Heat are putting together the pieces for another title run. The Heat have made clear that their first priority is re-signing Dragic, who is in the prime of his career. But once that’s squared away, history and sentiment and circumstances and cold hard logic suggest that Wade and the Heat will sign a deal as well. Everything else aside, Wade is worth more to the Heat than he is to any other team.

LeBron James – Stephen Curry: NBA Finals 2015 showdown begins

LeBron James and Stephen Curry, two of the top players in professional basketball, each only have to win one more playoff series in order to earn an NBA Finals championship ring. The catch: they have to go through each other to get there. The Finals tips off tonight and sets up a showdown between the player who has dominated the league for the past several years and the player who stands in line to be the next to dominate. But when it comes to LeBron vs Steph, who has the advantage in this series?

Shooting: LeBron James is a phenomenal shooter. Stephen Curry just might be the greatest shooter of all time. Advantage: Steph.

Interior: LeBron found his interior game during his time with the Miami Heat, and has brought it with him back to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Advantage: LeBron.

Teammates: The Cavs were at times a one man band even before they were hit by injuries. Looking beyond each team’s respective star player, the Golden State Warriors have a better matched, more talented, and deeper roster. The only way James wins this series is if he significantly outplays Curry. Advantage: Steph.

Intangibles: LeBron James has been in the last four NBA Finals and feels comfortable here, while Stephen Curry is on new ground. That said, LeBron’s Finals appearances have ranged from the utterly dominant (2012, 2013) to all but mailing it in (2007, 2014). Which LBJ shows up this time is anyone’s guess. Advantage: Tie.

Prediction: LeBron may well end up outplaying Steph Curry in this series. But unless it’s by a mile, it won’t be enough to overcome the lack of talent around him. Warriors in five games.

Philadelphia Eagles QB: Sam Bradford v. Mark Sanchez v. Tim Tebow

The Philadelphia Eagles head into the 2015 season with Sam Bradford as their default starting quarterback, Mark Sanchez penciled in as their number two, and Matt Barkley and Tim Tebow fighting it out in a battle to be the third stringer. It’s unlikely more than three of the four QBs will make the opening day roster, and each has their pros and cons. Here’s a look at how the Eagles gunslinger battle may end up going down.

Sam Bradford is nearly guaranteed to be the opening day starter, barring injury in the preseason. Of course in his case that’s a genuine concern, as the former number one overall draft pick has lost the majority of his young career to one injury or another, to the point that the Rams gave up on him entirely. But the Philadelphia Eagles wouldn’t have traded away Nick Foles just to get him unless they’re seriously interested in making him their starter, as they declined to draft a quarterback. But while Bradford will start the season, what are the odds that he’ll finish it?

Assuming Bradford gets hurt at some point along the line, Mark Sanchez did just enough as a fill-in last season to retain a grip on the number two position unless he ends up regressing in camp or the preseason. The question may be not whether he’ll start any games this season in Philadelphia, but rather how many. That makes the battle between Tim Tebow and Matt Barkley particularly important.

Tebow has proven himself largely inept as an NFL starting quarterback (despite the insistence on the part of his fans that his mostly subpar performances and jarringly inaccurate passes have somehow been phenomenal). His value is as a niche player who an enter the game with scripted plays and catch the other team off guard. But it’s difficult to use a number three quarterback in that role because only two quarterbacks are typically kept active on game day. Tebow won’t wrest the #2 job from Sanchez, meaning that his value as a game-day inactive is nil.

The Eagles say they’re not interested in using Tebow at another position, calling into question what he’s doing on the roster to begin with. But with Barkley clearly behind Sanchez on the depth chart to begin with, is it possible that the team will pull a surprise and keep him around as the inactive QB after all, planning to put him to use as the #2 after Sam Bradford is inevitably injured and Sanchez becomes the #1? But that calls into question why a team has a starting quarterback whom they’re expecting to get injured. But like most four ring circuses, the Philadelphia Eagles QB situation may simply take more time before making any sense to anyone watching it play out.