MIAMI – I love the NFL and NBA drafts. I've always wanted to spend a night in a team's draft room to live through the ups and downs. What happens when a player starts to fall? What are the conversations like when the phones start ringing and other GMs want to play "Let's make a deal?"
I've never wanted to be in a room more than the Heat's draft room on Thursday night.
Not just because of the "palpitations" Pat Riley said he started feeling when Justise Winslow, their top-rated wing player started falling.
Not just because the Heat's phone started ringing off the hook with other teams trying to trade into Miami's spot to pry Winslow away and pull off the steal of the draft.
It's because I legitimately want to know what it sounds like when Micky Arison and his son, Nick, start singing the Duke fight song in unison. I mean, do they harmonize? Do they actually know the words other than "go to hell, Carolina?" And, since I'm sure it sounded something like Erik Spoelstra at Battioke, did anybody dare tell their bosses that they really should stick to their day jobs?
In all seriousness, this wasn't just a home run for the Heat. It was a grand slam. And if I were the Arisons, I'd be singing too. For all of Winslow's on-court attributes that made him a no-brainer pick, his best attribute is something you can't see: he LOVES the game. He's passionate about it. Studies guys like Kawhi Leonard to make his game better.
I loved this quote:
"I don't want to look a couple years down the line; I want to win now. And so, to be a part of an organization with a leader like (Pat Riley) is something that I really like."
Riley doesn't want to wait, either. It's a perfect marriage.
What now for Wade?
ESPN analyst Jay Bilas told a great story about Justise Winslow on ESPN radio (relayed to me by our photographer, David Silver). The story goes that Bilas was watching a preseason practice with Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski and said Winslow reminded him of James Harden. Krzyzewski responded, "No, Dwyane Wade." Bilas said, "He reminds you of Dwyane Wade?" K's response? "No, he IS Dwyane Wade."
That's incredibly high praise. Remember, Wade is from K's hometown of Chicago and also played for K on the US Olympic team. But it now begs the question: Will Winslow learn from Wade? Or take his place? Winslow and Riley made their preference clear after the pick was announced.
"(It's) just a blessing, a guy that I've always looked up to in Dwyane Wade," Winslow said. "Hopefully there's someone I can learn from and kind of grow from."
Riley held court after the draft and, although there was certainly a sense of euphoria with the selection of Winslow, the big topic of conversation was Wade.
"We want him back, want him here for the rest of his career," Riley said. "We will try to do everything we can do to make that happen."
Reports have been swirling for weeks that Wade and the Heat are far apart on what Wade should make over the next few years. He must decide by Monday if he will opt in to the final year of a deal that will pay him around $16 million. A deal that he signed last year for below market-value, the latest in a string of sacrifices he's made for the franchise.
"Everyone in this organization over the years has sacrificed and I would have to say the one player from that standpoint that has sacrificed a lot for the sake of winning has been (Wade)," Riley said after the draft. "We're aware of that."
Did Wade sign that deal with an understanding he would opt out and then get repaid for those sacrifices? And now that it's time to collect, is he getting different messages? That theory is certainly being circulated. And there are a number of reports out there that the relationship between Wade and the Heat has soured and Wade feels disrespected.
"That hasn't been expressed to us," Riley said. "We respect him."
But the ultimate sign of respect is a dollar sign. The Heat clearly want to have money under the cap in 2016 when big-time players like Kevin Durant will be available in free agency. If they pay Wade the max now, roughly $23.5 million, they would still have that flexibility. However, they would also incur a massive luxury tax bill unless they move other contracts.
Riley punted when asked if Wade (and Luol Deng, who also has an option) will be back next year.
"I'm not pessimist when it comes to that," Riley said, adding that he feels the organization has a lot to offer for guys like Wade, Deng and free agent-to-be Goran Dragic. "Whatever I think today is really irrelevant. I want all of them to come back."
If this were strictly about money, the Heat could offer Wade far less than the max $23.5 million and keep him in town. If he didn't take it and moved on, the organization would simply take solace in the fact that 2016 brings a great crop of free agents who could replace Wade's impact on the floor.
But feelings seem to be hurt here. Wade is the face of the franchise. If he feels mistreated and word gets out around the league that the Heat would do something like that to him, which big-name free agent with a number of similar financial options would choose to come to Miami? Would the Heat be stuck with a lot of money under the cap but no one worthy of paying?
As always, Riley stole the show after the draft. But I would have loved to be in that room a couple hours earlier. Not only to hear how the Arisons harmonize, but to hear how the Heat are planning to attack the next few weeks. As it is, we will all have to wait until free agency tips off July 1.