MIAMI (AP) Dwyane Wade still has every hope of finishing his NBA career in the same manner that it began, wearing a Miami Heat uniform.
That's the good news for Heat fans.
Now comes the tough part – Wade and the team figuring out how to make that a reality. It took a $20 million contract this past season to keep the relationship going for a 13th year; it won't come cheap this time either. While it's obvious that being a free agent means Wade will have opportunities with other clubs, and he is more than prepared to listen – as was the case last year – his ideal scenario remains staying put.
''Hopefully, if everything goes well this summer for this organization and for myself, we'll give ourselves another chance,'' Wade told The Associated Press before leaving for vacation.
He has had talks with the Heat already, since they didn't have to wait for July 1 to engage with their own players. Miami will also be busy trying to retain Hassan Whiteside and lure Kevin Durant, but keeping Wade is also very high on Heat President Pat Riley's list of offseason priorities.
The Heat know what Wade wants in terms of money and roster; in turn, Wade has a general sense of how the team will proceed when the league's annual player shopping spree opens at 12:01 a.m. Friday. And the team's social media accounts Tuesday were clearly trying to appeal to Wade, posting videos, quotes and stats that all paid tribute to what he did this past season when he averaged 19 points and 4.6 assists in what was another All-Star campaign.
''We've had a few down years out of my 13 years here but for the most part we stay pretty competitive and we stay pretty darn close,'' Wade said. ''With the right moves and the right acquisitions, we can put ourselves right in the conversation.''
It's going to be an extremely difficult few days for the Heat, who again will have to work to keep the face of the franchise – after all, Miami is often called Wade County – in red, white and black for at least one more season. Heat fans were frenzied by the prospect of losing him a year ago, and Wade said many times this season that he wanted to continue playing in Miami for the rest of his career.
But now it's decision time.
The 34-year-old Wade could leave, without question. So could Udonis Haslem, who like Wade has spent all 13 of his seasons in Miami. They would rather stay, though if the money isn't to their liking, either or both could feel like their hands are forced to go elsewhere. And Wade most certainly wants Haslem back, even if that's in the very limited role he's had in recent seasons.
About 25 percent of Miami's salary cap space for next season is allotted to Chris Bosh's contract, though there remains no guarantee that he will be cleared to play after his last two seasons ended at the All-Star break because of blood clots. Bosh has remained silent about his future, and the team hasn't offered any specifics on his condition or prognosis.
Wade said he ''100 percent'' expects Bosh back.
''I have no doubt in my mind,'' Wade said. ''I'm not a doctor. And even the people who are around, no one knows what Chris has gone through and how this is going to shake out. I hope that's back and doing it with me, doing it with UD, doing it with an organization that he won two championships in. I have no doubt in my mind that he's going to be back and he's going to be Chris Bosh.''
Still, there's no chance that situation is resolved anytime soon. So it leads to one part of the multi-tiered conundrum for the Heat, who saw stock in Whiteside (who was hurt in the Eastern Conference semifinals and missed the last four games of that series in which Miami lost in seven games to Toronto) soar after Bosh's season ended at this year's break.
If Wade gets another $20 million deal, his salary along with Bosh would eat up about half of Miami's cap space. Wade knows the financial reality for the team, yet also knows his worth.
''It's going to be an interesting summer,'' Wade said.
That could sound ominous.
But then there's this: When asked what will drive him in his offseason workouts, Wade talked about Game 7 of the Toronto-Miami series – when the Heat got blown out.
''We didn't have Chris, we didn't have Hassan, but I wish I could have done more,'' Wade said. ''That Game 7 is going to be in my mind. I want to be able to have more when that opportunity comes again. I want to be able to be in that moment and be able to overcome that Game 7.''
There's also another Game 7 that will inspire Wade – the one where his former teammate and current vacation partner LeBron James led Cleveland past Golden State for this season's NBA title. Wade was there, and this season was the 11th consecutive year in which he's gone to the Finals, five of those as a player, the other six as a fan.
''I go as a competitor because I want to be there and I want to feel that atmosphere,'' Wade said. ''I want to experience that and I want to envision myself on that podium again.''
Time will tell if he gets there, and if he does, in what uniform.