INDEPENDENCE, Ohio – While he won’t have the full “banana boat” crew alongside him in Cleveland this season as he once hoped for, LeBron James couldn’t wipe the smile off his face Wednesday when discussing the Cavaliers’ impending addition of his longtime friend and former teammate, Dwyane Wade.
“I’m happy that we were able to keep him away from everybody else,” James said after practice, referring to Wade accepting Cleveland’s $2.3 million veteran minimum offer over competing offers from the Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat. “It’s a guy, come on, man, this is like one of my best friends. It’s kind of like when you start school and you walk into the classroom and you’re not quite sure who your classmates are and when you walk in there and one of your best friends is in there, you’re like, ‘Oh, yeah, this is going to be fun. It’s going to be a good class.’ That’s the type of feeling I got.”
Wade will clear waivers at 5 p.m. Wednesday, according to the Cavs. At that point he will be free to sign his contract with Cleveland and undergo a physical evaluation to complete the onboard process. The second session of the Cavs’ two-a-day practice is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. and it’s possible Wade could join the team on the court for it, a team source told ESPN.
A day before Wade agreed to a buyout with the Chicago Bulls, another fellow 2003 NBA draftee and mutual friend of him and James, Carmelo Anthony, was traded from the New York Knicks to the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Cavs were one of three teams, along with the Houston Rockets and OKC, that Anthony agreed to waive his no-trade clause for should the Knicks have been able to strike a deal. New York asked Cleveland to include Tristan Thompson in its offer; the Cavs were steadfast in their package featuring Iman Shumpert and Channing Frye and negotiations fell apart.
Dwyane Wade and LeBron James won two championships with the Heat. Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports
“Obviously there was a lot of speculation throughout the summer with Melo and possibly him joining us and obviously we see how that panned out,” James said. “We’re blessed as a franchise to be able to have a player the caliber of D-Wade join us. It’s exciting.”
In March of 2016, James told Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck of his intentions to one day play alongside Wade, Anthony and Chris Paul after the foursome’s bond gained attention for their successful Olympic runs and convivial group vacation when the four were photographed drinking wine and riding on a banana boat together.
“I really hope that, before our career is over, we can all play together,” James said to Bleacher Report. “At least one, maybe one or two seasons-me, Melo, D-Wade, CP-we can get a year in. I would actually take a pay cut to do that.”
Paul was also traded from the Los Angeles Clippers to the Rockets in June, less than two weeks before Kyrie Irving requested a trade to Cavs’ management. Had Irving made his request sooner, Cleveland could have potentially traded him to the Clippers for Paul, adding yet another banana boater to James’ team.
“I mean, from a friend perspective, I wish (Anthony) would have came and we could have worked some things out,” James said. “But at the end of the day I think our front office has done a great job and either the Knicks felt or we felt it just didn’t work out. And it worked out for the Thunder. So, like I said, I’ve been pretty much even-keeled this summer. I wish he would have been here. It would have been great to have him. I love Melo’s game. I love D-Wade’s game. I love CP’s game. You know know how I feel about those three but that doesn’t take anything away from what we got in that locker room which is a lot. I look forward to continuing to grow with these guys, especially the new guys.”
Wade is the only new guy out of the Cavs’ fresh-face group of Isaiah Thomas, Derrick Rose, Jae Crowder, Jeff Green, Jose Calderon and Ante Zizic that James has any history with. They teamed up for four Finals appearances and two championships in four years together in Miami.
Even though Wade turns 36 in January and is coming off a season in which he shot a career-low 43.4 percent from the field, James vows the shooting guard has plenty left to contribute.
“He adds another championship DNA, another guy with high basketball IQ, another playmaker that can make plays and also make shots,” James said. “That adds to our depth and we were already pretty deep. It adds even more depth and even more playmaking to our team, which obviously you guys saw last year he can still do.”
Anyone talking to James on Wednesday could see that his spirits are bright as he opens up another season with Wade on his team after three years apart from one another.
“I guess I just missed playing ball, I guess,” James said. “Or, the opportunity I have to lead a franchise once again and take guys to measures that they haven’t been before and hopefully I can try to take myself to places I haven’t been before and that’s why I’ve been training as much as I have over the last three months. So, I’m just enjoying life. This is a wonderful time. I mean, it’s 90 (degrees) in September in Cleveland. How could you not be happy?”