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Dwyane Wade tells the story of the 2010 free agency
by Sam Smith
Posted on Oct 13
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We all wondered in 2010 why LeBron James and Dwyane Wade went to Miami with Chris Bosh when they could have come to Chicago to play with Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah Luol Deng and Taj Gibson. It seemingly would have been a much better and more complete team than the one in Miami, which had to be rebuilt around them, but which did go to four consecutive NBA Finals, winning two.
So they obviously didn’t make a mistake.
But Wade Thursday after Bulls practice in extended public comments about the most celebrated free agency in NBA history said he and James were serious about joining the Bulls, that if the Bulls had succeeded in an effort to trade Luol Deng to add salary cap space it was possible, that it never was a longtime conspiracy among the three to come together, that, in fact, Wade had told the Heat they’d never get James, and that, in the end, James and Wade decided that with Rose it would be three ball dominant players and better to try it with two and Bosh.
“It was us trying to put together our dream team in a sense,” said Wade. “Chicago was very tempting from a standpoint of what they had on the roster when it came to the young talent. But when it came to the point Miami was able to get three players, that changed the whole dynamic of the summer. It would be a different story (if the Bulls were able to trade Deng). We thought about it. That didn’t happen. It was something they (Bulls) talked about. They were very open with us with what they were trying to do. They heard the news of Miami being able to bring three players in. But it never happened. So we never had to think that far. They (Miami) came with the idea that they can get three players. We never thought it was possible. I was shocked when I heard it could happen. But I know LeBron’s eyes were here (Chicago). I know my eyes were here. I know Chris’ eyes were kind of everywhere because he was in Toronto, so he was just happy that people knew who he was. Toronto was a little different than it is today.
“I mean, this was a place I wanted to play,” Wade said about Chicago as he did have two free agency visits in 2010 and stunned the NBA by leaving Miami to return home, as he insisted he always wanted to do. “It was a place that LeBron also loved. We loved the city of Chicago. It’s a great market, as well. Obviously, the sunny sun of Miami is great, too. We had two great choices. It pretty much boiled down to what we felt we could build. We had to build a whole team in Miami. Obviously, here they had players already. But once we got me, ‘Bron and Chris, we had to now take pay cuts to build a team. It was obviously tougher to do it in Miami, but because we wanted to play together, us three, we decided to do it there.
“I think we made a good choice,” said Wade. “It worked out. It wasn’t like they had all three roster (spots); they couldn’t get all three of us and add us to the mix of what was going on. It was going to be kind of a sense where Chicago could’ve got two players and it probably was going to be LeBron and Chris or me and Chris. Miami was able to get all three of us. And we really wanted to play together at that moment once we found out it could be a thing. At the same time, you have to look at it, too. They did have a young Derrick Rose. What, he got MVP that next year? So you’re already talking two guys who are ball dominant. And then you have a young up-and-coming star in the league who is ball dominant. At that time, I don’t think it would’ve worked out for us. We took our two ball-dominant selves away from having three guys as ball dominant. So instead of it being me, LeBron and Derrick Rose, it’s going to be a tough one. So we decided to pick what we thought was better from a basketball standpoint.”
Which is how history and geniuses are made in sports. Wade confirmed the Bulls’ effort was far superior to any other teams’ in the NBA as far as trying to recruit the all-time free agents. Wade also shot down the speculation and conspiracy theories that this was percolating among the three as far back as the 2006 World Championships and brewed to a boil at the 2008 Olympics. Nonsense, said Wade, but thanks for the credit of believing they were so smart they could have maneuvered and manipulated such a coup. Further proof was said to be that Heat owner Micky Arison’s son was an intern for the 2006 USA team in Japan, the first time the three played together, and that all signed similar extension to become 2010 free agents. Gotcha!
But Wade said when Miami owner Arison approached him after that Olympics about whether the Heat could get James, Wade said he told Arison to forget it, that there was no chance.
“Crazy notion,” laughed Wade. “I wish we were that smart. Thank you for giving us credit of seeing in the future. That theory is crazy. So I’m going to play for two seasons, may get hurt, but let’s hope that this happens in two years? Nah. I never thought me and LeBron would play together. It was a question posed to me, y’all can ask Micky Arison; asked me a year or two before, ‘You think LeBron would like to come to Miami?’ I said. ‘You got a 0.0000.1 percent chance.’ It was a powerful .1 percent because he ended up coming, but I had no idea, I never thought it would be possible. I never thought besides All Star games and Olympics, I never thought about the NBA, taking the same court. But when it presented itself, you open it up, you start the conversation, you start looking at it a little different. That’s what happened. Thank everybody for thinking we were that smart but this kind of happened when it happened.”
Which perhaps makes it that much more frustrating for the Bulls since it was obviously much closer than any of us imagined. Wade confirmed his and LeBron’s relationship with Bosh was vital since they both knew and liked Bosh, but also liked his fit as a player. Wade said he knew LeBron was working with the Cavs that 2009-10 season to trade for Bosh because James didn’t want to leave Cleveland, and James then was trying to get Bosh to make a free agency commitment. But Bosh did not want to play and live in Cleveland.
Would the three have come to Chicago if the Bulls had succeeded in moving Deng to the Clippers as the Bulls had done with trading Kirk Hinrich to Washington, essentially for salary cap space for free agency? The Clippers were one of six teams that summer along with the Knicks and Nets bidding for the top free agents. Clippers’ management reportedly wanted to make the Deng trade. Then owner Donald Sterling overruled them, saying they could do better with the cap space. They instead signed free agents Brian Cook, Ryan Gomes and Randy Foye.
Rose did go on to win the league MVP that season and the Bulls led the league in wins. Though the Bulls lost in five games to the Heat in the conference finals, they were deeper and younger and the view was they could catch and surpass Miami the next season. The Bulls again led the NBA in wins in the lockout season, but then Rose suffered his severe knee injury the first game of the 2012 playoffs and Miami went on to the first of two consecutive championships.
Then after losing to the Spurs in the 2014 Finals, James returned to Cleveland and won the title with the Cavaliers last June. Wade then stunned Miami and the NBA world in signing with the Bulls last July. Bosh with blot clot health problems has not been able to play.
These memories, possibilities and reflections about the historic implications came up after practice with the Bulls Friday hosting defending champion Cleveland and James in the United Center in the Bulls’ fourth preseason game. James is not expected to play as he’s resting much of the preseason. Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said Wade will play Friday, but perhaps not Saturday in Milwaukee or Monday back home against Charlotte.
Wade in a candid, revealing 20-minute session with reporters that was his most wide ranging analysis of that summer said the trio did understand the potentially consequential ramifications of their decision, which was largely unpopular at the time. The blow back about creating super teams has since diminished, though Kevin Durant has been criticized by some for going to Golden State. Though not nearly to the extent for James.
“We definitely knew it was big,” said Wade. “Obviously, we knew we had to win to make it something. We knew we were embarking on something big. You don’t know exactly what it is; we won’t know even probably for years from now. That first year was a tough year for us. You’ve got guys who at that time had been in this league and fans love. Media wasn’t too bad on us, either. And everything turned because we decided to play together. From a competitive standpoint you love that it was sold out every time you go to the arena; boos are fine. But just the things that people had to say about us, the decision we made to play the game of basketball together. There was a lot of negative attention on that. We took the hit of that. No one else is going to take that kind of hit when it comes to that. Just like Allen Iverson took the hit for tattoos and braids and headbands. Everyone does it now. So we understood what we were embarking on, and that’s why it was huge. I’m not saying we were the first to do it because I know other teams have tried to, but in the point of where we were name wise in our career, in the prime of our career, we were kind of the most powerful to do it at that time. But hey, we did what we wanted to do and that’s what it always came back to us. After that first year, that’s why we got back to playing the game, enjoying the game. It became, ‘We came together to win championships, let’s take care of business.’ ‘’
Wade also offered a salient point about why it was time and appropriate for such a decision. After all, this is what freedom of movement is about, what players fought for over the years. What all workers seek. Why should players be tied to the whims of only one team? Without going into that, Wade was saying it’s basically what the freedoms of the United States are about.
“It was different for the NBA at that time,” Wade agreed. “Everyone had this perception that it was… ‘Best players play against each other.’ You do it with your own team. I don’t think Magic was the only person on his team. I don’t think Larry Bird was the only person on his team. They’ve got multiple Hall of Fame players. So you understand from that standpoint what it takes to be really successful in this league. You want to give yourself a chance. Just the fact that we were both big names. All in all, we’re just like everyone else. We just decided to play together.
“At the end of the day whether you dislike the Heat or you loved the Heat, you were tuning in to watch the Heat,” said Wade. “Same thing with Golden State. Whether you dislike what happened with Kevin Durant or whatever the case may be, you’re going to tune in to watch, whether you want him to succeed or fail. Our game is growing. Eyes are on our game. And at the end of the day, me as a player, I just love the fact that players have the ability to control their own destiny. That’s what we fight for. When it comes to lockouts, all these types of things, we want to be able to do the things that we want to do because they can trade us at any moment, they can get rid of us at any moment. So to have the power to be able to do what we did in 2010, that felt great. That was a great moment for us; three young African-American kids got the opportunity to control their own destiny and call their own shots. That’s what we wanted. Our game is not taking a hit, our game has only grown.’’
It was a historic moment in the times of the NBA. If not, at the time, for the Bulls. Though not for want of effort.