MIAMI — Dwyane Wade cannot be clearer about this: He wants to wear a Miami Heat uniform again.
After signing his one-year, $2.3 million deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Wade — speaking from his new locker room — told The Associated Press that Miami is "always in my heart" and that he took a serious look at whether this was the right time to return to the franchise where he spent his first 13 NBA seasons.
"Miami, the door’s always unlocked," Wade told AP. "One day I want to retire in a Miami Heat jersey. I don’t know how that will happen, but I definitely want to make sure than when I decide to hang it up, that jersey is on. Whether it’s being back there or signing a one-day deal like Paul Pierce, I want to make sure that I go out the way I came in."
The Heat have also indicated they would like a reunion many times — such as when they took out a full-page newspaper ad saying "We’ll leave a key under the mat for you" when he left Miami for Chicago last year and earlier this week, when Miami coach Erik Spoelstra talked about "our hopes for where he ends up eventually."
"Everybody knows how we all feel about him," Spoelstra said.
The feeling is mutual.
Wade is from Chicago and now will live in Cleveland, but Miami is home. His children are back in South Florida schools after joining him in Chicago last year, and Wade said he got the blessing from his oldest son to pursue the Cleveland opportunity.
"When it comes down to big decisions like this, there’s two people I listen to: Her name is Gabrielle Union Wade and his name is Zaire Wade," Dwyane Wade said, referring to his wife and oldest son. "I listen to Zaire and my wife and try to see what they feel and what they want. Zaire told me just like this: ‘Dad, I would love to have you here and be around more. But I want you to go get your fourth ring."’
With that, it became an easy choice.
Some Heat fans lobbied Wade on Twitter to come back to Miami after he got his buyout from the Bulls this week, and former teammates like Udonis Haslem, Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic also said they wanted him back.
Wade said it was flattering.
"To be in this position, to be in this league so long and to have fans wanting you to be part of their team — I mean, we all want to be wanted — I can’t even explain what that means," Wade said. "I really looked at their team and where could I fit in and what could my role be and would I be happy with that role."
Miami has plenty of shooting guards: Dion Waiters is the presumed starter, and Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson, Rodney McGruder and Wayne Ellington all will see time at that spot for the Heat.
Wade looked at Miami’s depth at that position and realized the fit wouldn’t be ideal. Plus, the Heat were able to bring back most everyone from a team that went 30-11 in the second half of last season and Wade thought he could get in the way.
"Honestly, I didn’t feel they needed me there," Wade said. "I feel that those guys are in a good place. They deserve to come back this year and see what that 30-11 was about. They don’t need me there over their shoulder or anything like that. That’s kind of how I approached it."
There is a bit of irony in how the schedule works out.
When he was with the Bulls last season, Chicago played at Miami only once — one of the schedule quirks that has some Eastern Conference teams playing each other three times instead of the more-customary four. The same thing happens this season in the Heat-Cavaliers series, with Cleveland coming to Miami one time only.
"Last year, honestly, I could only take coming back that once," Wade said. "It worked out for the better last year. It was the weirdest game I ever played in my life."