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Wade's departure underscores conflict of business and loyalty

July 08,2016 07:08

Maybe letting Wade go was a good business decision, and maybe it wasn't. Maybe it was a good basketball decision, and maybe it wasn't. But it was, no maybe about it, a terrible emotional decision. And that's where interests clash and people get hurt in ...and more »

12:05 AM ETprintcommentDwyane Wade's wife feels betrayed. Her stunned husband, Miami's favorite son, finds himself somewhere between hurting and haunted. And warrior legend Pat Riley is wounded, having morphed with his fan base from The Godfather to Tony Montana in a way that feels reckless and bloody. Something so big and strong exploded at the center of what used to be their basketball family, and now they all limp away from each other with the scars.There was no good way to do any of this without conflict and blame. None. The Miami Heat got the breakup wrong because there was no good way to get it right. Maybe letting Wade go was a good business decision, and maybe it wasn't. Maybe it was a good basketball decision, and maybe it wasn't. But it was, no maybe about it, a terrible emotional decision. And that's where interests clash and people get hurt in this kind of collision, at the intersection of sports as a business and sports as a relationship.Champion Bill Belichick will let players go coldly a year too early. You just saw what happened when the hijacked Lakers let champion Kobe Bryant go a year or two too late. The Heat landed somewhere in the middle of those two extremes, as if there is ever any right place to land when breaking up what used to feel like love, and now everyone involved feels hurt and damaged by the iciness of it all. We don't want to be reminded that these things are literally transactions. We want to keep having our romantic, candlelight dinners on the floor of the bank.It is very easy to have good relationships when interests are aligned, but you don't really find out about love and loyalty until they aren't. The Heat-Wade marriage felt like a honeymoon for more than a decade, aligned interests as the winning glue, but this transaction wasn't loving at the end, as evidenced by all the fractured trust and the thudding finality of the heartbreaking exit. Wade and the fan base were considering things that are priceless, such as nostalgia, while the Heat were doing the calculator math on future basketball value that you must do as stars age in a salary-capped ecosystem.Players, coaches and owners like to think their teams are built on relationships, but Dwyane Wade's cold exit from Miami reminds us the NBA is still a business. And business and feelings are almost certain to conflict eventually. Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty ImagesIt makes LeBron James, power broker and paradigm shifter, all the more breathtaking with the clarity of retrospect. He Pat Riley'd Pat Riley before Pat Riley could Pat Riley him, flying the old warrior across the country for a cold courtesy meeting as a legendary pawn. That has to hurt Wade all the more today, that his mercenary friend cost him $10 million and was right about loyalty in sports largely being a lie disguised as a fairy tale.Ultimately, Miami made enough of an effort to appear like it was making enough of an effort. Riley didn't get where he is doing negotiations with his heart. So the breakup had to kinda, sorta feel like Wade's choice when swallowing more pride didn't seem like much of a choice at all to this proud icon, public relations an awkward mask for all the blemishes that had developed in the private relations. Nearly $42 million? A lot of us would like to be insulted like that. But if the Heat really wanted to keep him, they obviously would have found a way to keep him. Instead, they made a fair and reasonable offer, offering even more than they probably would have liked because of the emotion and the public relations and the fan base and the past and goodwill and reputation and that statue that will go up one day. And then they watched other franchises start valuing Wade more than the one that should have valued him the most. And watched Tyler Johnson, with all of five career starts, get offered $10 million guaranteed more than Wade.The Heat likely didn't want to deal with two more years of unhappy, disrespected, hurt Wade. They would have, but only at their price. Perhaps a smitten man will tolerate a diva's behavior in her prime. But patience might grow thin in a more superficial relationship once the beauty queen's age no longer disguises her flaws. And these two sides couldn't agree on much of anything at the end. Not on who put together the Big Three. Not on how much the sacrifices were worth. Not even on how to make a damn phone call.You know how it is sometimes before the worst breakups. The fights aren't really about the fights; they're about all the resentments collected on the way to the fights.Justise Winslow, like so many others involved with the Miami Heat, is trying to come to grips with the fact Dwyane Wade will be playing for the Chicago Bulls.After 13 years as the face of the franchise, Dwyane Wade's messy breakup with Miami is an unfitting end to a relationship between a city and its greatest champion.The Miami Heat enter uncharted territory after franchise cornerstone Dwyane Wade, a key part of three title teams, announced his move to Chicago.2 RelatedWade thinks he, his talent and his relationships built the Big Three. But he also told people in 2009 that James would never, ever leave Cleveland to come to Miami, and Miami cleared the cap space for the possibility of James anyway. Can they both be right? Wade couldn't figure out why he was always the one making the financial sacrifices. The Heat can counter that those discounts also helped Wade ... and that they never requested those discounts of him ... and that they paid for themselves with winning and endorsements ... and that James, Chris Bosh, Goran Dragic, Udonis Haslem, Shane Battier and Ray Allen also gave back dollars (and even Hassan Whiteside offered up a chunk of contract for the possibility of Kevin Durant). Can they both be right? Wade is reportedly hurt because Riley never once reached out to him by phone during these past few weeks; the Heat are hurt because disgruntled leaks kept springing from his camp for two years and too much of the repairing dialogue had to go through his many agents. Can they both be wrong?"Relationships are important, people," Wade tweeted in the middle of negotiations, about the time he realized that this one was no longer what he once thought it was. Wade didn't trust Riley with his money anymore. That is clear now. The Heat would have liked to use his Bird rights to keep working with Wade and compensate with the possibility of a one-year, $37 million max payment as a gold-watch parting gift a few years from now. But Wade obviously didn't believe that was ever coming, or he would have done what discounted Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan have wink-wink done with their employers in exchange for having some control over the roster. When Wade is done being classy and professional in public, maybe we'll find out where and how this trust broke.Riley coined the phrase "the Disease of Me" in his best-selling book "The Winner Within." He might have discovered the illness, but he is not immune from it. He has an earned ego, too. He is about doing his job, no matter how cutthroat it must be. Ask his protégé Van Gundys. It is Riley's way or the highway, and sometimes loyalty can be a one-way street on that highway. Riley's résumé is bejeweled, but it now has the blemishes of losing James and Wade. The first could be blamed on James; this one won't be. Together, they are damning. And, given how cold this business can be, a messy fight with Bosh over his medical issue and salary-cap space might be next. These past six years, the rise and fall, are going to make for one hell of a "30 for 30" in a decade.Riley's daughter knows her father is hurting today. He has always been a philosopher-poet moved by writing and music. He owns more than 2,000 vinyl records. But she sent him a song he hadn't heard Thursday -- "Inner Ninja," a happy tune by Canadian rapper Classified -- to help her father heal. She really knows the old man, and she knows the game that is his life's work, and she knows that his game is a business, and she knows how that business can wound. Here are some of the lyrics:I read the rules before I broke 'emI broke the chains before they choked me outNow I pay close attentionReally learn the codeI learned to read the map before I hit the roadHey, yo, I know you never heard this beforeBut I'd rather lose a fight than miss the warI go hard and I ain't makin' up no excuseI'm overdue, I don't do what I'm supposed to doCause you can think about it, man, we're supposed to loseIt ain't all picture perfect, ocean viewsHey, yo, I've been high and I've been real lowI've been beaten and broken but I healed thoughSo many ups and downs, roughed up and clownedWe all got problems, but we deal thoughI'm trying to do better now, find my inner peaceLearn my art form, and find my energyWhen my backs on the wall, I don't freeze upNah, I find my inner strength and I re-upNever dwell in the dark cause the sun always risesBut gotta make it to the next dayIt's a feeling that you get in your lungs when you runLike you're running outta air and your breath won't comeAnd you wheezing', gotta keep it movingFind that extra (uhn) and push your way through itI climbed the highest mountainsI swum the coldest seasThere ain't a thing I've faced that's been too much for meIt is a really nice song. The godfather who runs the Heat's family business vows to keep fighting. But he read the rules before he broke them, and he learned the code, and he knows the basketball business ain't all picture perfect, ocean views, even though he and Wade went from climbing the highest mountains to now swimming the coldest seas. He knows this, too:Letting Wade go might turn out to be a mistake.But it sure as hell can't be considered any kind of accident.This story by Dan Le Batard also appears in the Miami Herald.

Dwyane Wade,Chicago Bulls,Miami Heat

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