James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are the clear front-runners to sign Wade once he becomes a free agent later this week, a person with knowledge of the situation. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Tuesday because no deals have been finalized.
Wade cannot clear waivers until 5 p.m. Wednesday, the time when his buyout by the Chicago Bulls will be completed. Sometime — presumably not very long — after that, the belief is Wade will announce that he has decided to reunite with his former Miami teammate and join the Cavaliers, according to the person who spoke with AP.
James and Wade have been friends since entering the NBA together in 2003, and were teammates with the Heat for four seasons from 2010 through 2014. They won two titles together and went to the NBA Finals in each of those seasons, and remained close even after James left Miami for a return to his hometown team in Cleveland.
And now they’ll almost certainly reunite, after Wade spent one year with his hometown team.
Wade told AP earlier this week that Oklahoma City, Cleveland and Miami were places he would consider signing.
"Whatever Dwyane does, it’s never, ever going to change how I feel about him, or about our hopes for where he ends up eventually," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Tuesday after Miami’s first practice of the season. "Whenever that is. … Everybody knows how we all feel about him."
Wade played his first 13 seasons in Miami, leaving in the summer of 2016 to sign a two-year deal with the Bulls. But the Bulls are in a rebuilding mode after trading Jimmy Butler this summer, and instead of paying Wade $23.8 million to play for what will likely be a struggling team they agreed this weekend to buy him out and let him find a better situation.
In that AP interview, Wade said that whatever decision he makes would be "a pure basketball decision and I’ll make the one that I feel fits me best at this point in my career and with what I feel I have to offer a team that needs what I have to offer."
James has made no secret that he wanted Wade in Cleveland, even with the Cavaliers coming off three straight trips to the NBA Finals. All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving was traded to Boston this off-season, and the All-Star that the Cavaliers got back from the Celtics — Isaiah Thomas — isn’t expected to play until January because of hip issues.
The Cavs also signed 2011 NBA MVP Derrick Rose, and now presumably will add a 12-time All-Star and three-time champion to the mix as well.
"I want to say Dwyane was very professional entirely through his time here," Bulls vice-president of basketball operations John Paxson said this week. "We have nothing but good things to say about him — professional, great player, can still play the game. We wish him well, and we’re happy he’s in a good place and will find a situation that’s best for him."