DAVIE, Fla. — Dwyane Wade walked down the stairs, trying to keep a stoic expression as he approached the crush of 150 people chanting his name.
He failed miserably.
"We want Wade!"
"We want Wade!"
"We want Wade!"
As soon as Wade heard those sounds and saw the group of Miami Heat employees waving signs and wearing jerseys bearing his name, he lifted his arms skyward and didn't even bother trying to contain his smile.
"I see I can't get rid of you all," Wade said.
They hope that's a permanent arrangement.
Still deliberating on whether to return to the Heat or sign with another team — his hometown Chicago Bulls seem to be front-runners if the 2006 NBA finals MVP decides to seek employment elsewhere — Wade offered no insight Tuesday on the process, and declined to take any questions.
Wade has been speaking with the other two gems of this free-agent class, LeBron James and Chris Bosh, about their plans throughout the process. And just as he has countless times in the past weeks and months, Wade has given no indication that his caveat for the Heat has changed — if Miami upgrades its roster to his liking, Wade wants to stay in South Florida.
Wade took a quick break from his youth basketball camp Tuesday morning for an impromptu recruiting pitch, this time from four busloads of Heat employees who took the drive north to Nova Southeastern University with hopes of making his tougher-than-expected decision on where to spend the next six seasons a tiny bit easier.
Wade was going to participate in a media event as well, promoting a charity weekend he and Alonzo Mourning will host next week, but that plan was scrapped for a slew of reasons. Wade's side had concerns that free agency would be the only matter discussed at the news conference, and there had been internal discussions for several days about canceling the event.
Consider how awkward that would have been: Mourning as a Heat executive involved in the recruiting of free agents, sitting alongside Wade, both of them insisting they wanted the sole focus to be on the Summer Groove.
No chance of that happening.
Not now, not with Wade's decision keeping the Heat and a slew of other teams on edge.
"You guys better say it like you mean it," Michael McCullough, the Heat executive vice president and chief marketing officer, told the group of huddled employees as he coached them on chanting technique a few minutes before Wade emerged through the front doors of the athletic complex. "This is no joke, right here."
Wade tried to make a joke nonetheless.
There were plans Monday for fans to greet Wade at a private terminal upon his arrival at Miami International Airport. Instead, Wade arrived in Miami on a commercial flight, slipping out of one of the main terminals nearly unnoticed, somehow anonymous in a wide-open public area.
"I thought I dodged you all yesterday," Wade said, laughing.
He didn't dodge the Heat on Monday, though.
Shortly after returning to town, Wade chatted with Heat owner Micky Arison, and plans are in place for another formalized round of talks between Miami and Wade later this week, possibly Wednesday.
Wade's agent, Henry Thomas, told The AP on Monday that the six-time All-Star is getting closer to a decision, but offered no timetable for an announcement.
At the brief Tuesday rally, Wade was outside for about a minute, then retreated back up the stairs to his "D. Wade All-Star Basketball Camp," where school-aged kids will spend the next three days learning from Wade and others.
By the time the camp ends Thursday, Wade could well have signed elsewhere. While free agents can, and many already have, agree to deals, none can be formally signed until 12:01 a.m. Thursday.
A handful of fans showed up as well at the camp Tuesday, some of them turned away by campus security. The buzz for Wade was so palpable that two other South Florida sports standouts, Ricky Williams of the Miami Dolphins and former Florida Marlins catcher Charles Johnson, walked through the lobby of the complex where Wade's camp was held nearly unnoticed.
All eyes were on Wade, for certain.
"I appreciate it," Wade said before turning back inside and leaving the chanting well-wishers. "You all know I do. Thank you, guys."
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