DORAL, Fla. – Dwyane Wade thinks there's a clear favorite for the 2011 NBA championship. No, it's not the Miami Heat.
Even after Wade signed a new six-year deal and had LeBron James and Chris Bosh added to the Miami mix, the 2006 NBA finals MVP says the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers should be the favorites heading into next season, simply because this Heat team hasn't proved anything yet.
"The Lakers are the champions and we know the Lakers are very good," Wade said Wednesday at a golf tournament he co-hosts with Alonzo Mourning. "That's the team that everyone's shooting for and they should be. Not the Miami Heat. The Los Angeles Lakers."
Oddsmakers in Las Vegas disagree, some sports books establishing Miami — a 20-1 pick before Wade, James and Bosh signed — as an 8-5 choice to win next season's title.
Wade said he still can't believe Miami pulled off the coup of free agency, luring James and Bosh to join him. And he said he's proud not to be the highest-paid player on the Heat, with James and Bosh signing deals worth around $111 million, while Wade took about $107 million for the next six seasons.
Wade took less, in part, to ensure Miami had enough money to re-sign Udonis Haslem, his close friend and teammate for the last seven years.
"We got the big three," Wade said, "and now we've got to continue to build our team."
He credited James with successfully recruiting center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who announced Tuesday that he'll leave Cleveland after more than a decade and sign with the Heat this week.
Wade expects free agent sharpshooter Mike Miller, who made 48 percent of his 3-pointers last season, to sign in the coming days. Miller agreed in principle several days ago to a deal that remains unsigned.
Plus, several players have contacted Wade to see if the Heat has space for them on the roster.
"The hard part is out of the way," Wade said. "Trust me, I get a lot of messages from a lot of different guys that want to be a part of this. But it's about putting the right guys in the right situation. Everyone might not have the personality to deal with this. It's got to be the right mix. The locker room has to be right. We've got to be patient to build this team."