THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Bigger loss yet to come?

Speculation turns to Wade’s future

Glen Davis may not have wanted to look, but he still played tough defense on Miami superstar guard Dwyane Wade. Glen Davis may not have wanted to look, but he still played tough defense on Miami superstar guard Dwyane Wade. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)
By Michael Whitmer
Globe Staff / April 28, 2010

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Until now, everything surrounding Dwyane Wade’s status with the Miami Heat has been rumor and conjecture, a tiresome topic, left to be decided at a future date while there were still meaningful games to be played.

Thanks to the Celtics, speculation is now officially on the clock.

With the Heat getting bounced from the first round of the playoffs last night at TD Garden, losing to the Celtics, 96-86, the spotlight in the Sunshine State will now settle squarely on Wade, one of the elite players who is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Should Wade decide to sign with another team after seven seasons on South Beach, it could be part of a seismic shift in the league, depending on which teams with enough cap space can potentially lure, among others, Wade, LeBron James, or Chris Bosh.

So far, Wade has played it cool. He has maintained a strong affinity for the franchise that drafted him in 2003 out of Marquette. But he also said he’s looking forward to testing the market, which officially opens July 1. He’s eligible for a max contract, but only Miami can offer him a guaranteed sixth year.

If Heat fans were waiting for any assurances from Wade that he’ll stay, he was in no mood to give one minutes after his season ended.

“I can’t predict the future,’’ Wade said. “It’s going to be a very important summer, a busy summer. I’m a good sportsman, but I don’t take losing well. It’s going to take a while to get over this, and then I’ll start pondering my future.

“I think I’ve said enough of what my mind-set is. The only thing I can do now is take time and make the best decision for my family.’’

If Wade’s last game in a Miami uniform was last night, it was another typical performance: 31 points, coming on the heels of his 46-point effort in Game 4 that temporarily prolonged the season. But the same song was also being played: Wade didn’t have much help from teammates, forcing him to carry Miami’s hopes on his shoulders.

Since winning the 2006 NBA title, Miami hasn’t won a playoff series, missing the postseason twice and losing three times in the first round. That, Wade said, won’t continue, but he was noticeably vague on which organization he was talking about.

“This will be my last first-round exit for a while, I can tell you that,’’ Wade said. “I’m looking forward to continue to build and being with some great players next year.’’

Counting Wade’s player option, the Heat are committed to only five salaries next season, so a summer of uncertainty is looming. His current teammates, like everybody else, are interested observers, wondering where he’ll go.

“I think Dwyane knows how the city feels about him and the whole community, and especially [team owner] Mickey [Arison] and [team president] Pat [Riley] and all those guys,’’ said Quentin Richardson, himself an unrestricted free agent this summer. “He’ll take his time and make a decision when it comes to that point.’’

Michael Beasley, who just finished his second season playing with Wade, was asked how different it would be without the six-time All-Star.

“A lot different,’’ he said. “That’s 40 points a night. We’d have to do a lot of rebuilding.’’

Of course, Wade could argue that’s what the team has been doing since winning a championship four years ago. The lack of capable scorers to take some offensive pressure off him? Frustrating. His desire to not be in that situation anymore? In full view.

“Obviously, we’ve got some work to do, the front office has to do,’’ Wade said. “I think any player that’s thinking about coming to Miami, they understand where my heart is. I just have to see things being done and accomplished. If that happens, we’ll be talking again.’’

Michael Whitmer can be reached at mwhitmer@globe.com.

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