Now that the Dwyane Wade era has officially ended, the Miami Heat face an immediate future that requires them to move forward without the franchise icon.
In the opinion of the Heat’s Josh Richardson, the team’s past performance when Wade wasn’t on the team offers a positive blueprint for what lies ahead.
Of having lost Wade once previously, "Us being able to be able to play without him for a little bit last year and the year before, too . . . we showed ourselves that we're capable." https://t.co/7XjMZ6ui8F
— Ira Winderman (@IraHeatBeat) April 12, 2019
Wade left the Heat as a free agent In July 2016 to sign with the Chicago Bulls. After one season in a Bulls uniform, he negotiated a buyout and then signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers, where he spent half a season before being traded back to the Heat in February of last year.
During that first year without Wade, the Heat essentially played two different seasons. The first 41 games saw them stumble to an 11-30 record, primarily due to an unrelenting string of injuries. However, at that midway point, they completely reversed course by going 30-11 in their final 41 games, narrowly missing a playoff berth.
Last season, the Heat had a record of 29-26 when Wade came back and finished 15-12 for the remainder of the regular season. That was good enough to get them to the playoffs, but they lost a five-game series to Philadelphia to end their year.
When the Heat do take the court next season, Richardson will be one of those players that needs to move forward. In his fourth NBA campaign this year, Richardson started in each of his 73 games, averaging career-highs in points (16.6), assists (4.1) and rebounds (3.6).
Richardson is signed with the Heat for the next two seasons and has a player option in 2021-22. With a contract that will be paying him more than $10 million per year, he’s got the financial security to simply play the game and serve as a team leader. Whether or not he’s able to do that will play a part in how well the Heat adjust to no longer having Wade around.