Dwyane Wade and the Bulls Saturday had messages for one another.
Get back to you when there’s more of a plan.
The Bulls conducted their exit meetings with players, and perhaps none was more significant than with Wade. He holds a $23.8 million player option for next season. Whether he decides to exercise it and return could determine much about how the team will move forward for next season.
Wade said he hasn’t made a decision yet and said the Bulls didn’t indicate to him whether he is part of their plan going forward. It’s Wade’s decision alone to decide whether he wants to be with the Bulls next season.
Wade also offered strong support for coach Fred Hoiberg, said he grew to enjoy and appreciate Rajon Rondo, didn’t have to chase another championship but could and had an immediate plan to get a tan and let his hair grow some more.
Ah, youth. Well, recently young.
“Once they kind of get all their information together in the sense of the direction they see the organization going, who they see as part of it, etc., just sit down and go from there,” said Wade about his next step with the Bulls. “Same way you do when you decide to come and be a part of something.”
Wade had a mostly disappointing season after coming off a strong playoff finish with Miami last season. Wade averaged 18.3 points in the regular season, his fewest since his rookie year. But he played just 60 games and missed most of the last month with a fractured elbow. He returned late in the season for the playoffs. But he averaged a career playoff low 15 points on 37 percent shooting.
Plus, he provoked the season’s biggest controversy when he condemned teammates after a January loss. He was fined and brought off the bench the next game.
“It definitely was the first time that something like that has happened in my career,” Wade admitted in a convivial 20 minutes with reporter at the training Advocate Center. “As a player, obviously, I want to use my voice the way I want to use it. As an organization, they didn’t appreciate the way that it was said; not what I said, but the way I said it. As I told Gar (Forman), I respect the decision on whatever they decided to do. You can always look back on it and say, ‘Yeah, I could have done this, I could have done it differently.’ But my message was just about trying to make sure that guys understand how important this is. And maybe because I’m at Year 14 of my career, maybe I see it different and I do it different. I would do it again if I’m put in that position. But I respected their decision to fine me. I didn’t like the benching part. But I definitely respected their decision to fine me. It’s their organization. And what they decide from at the top, you live with it.”
Wade also came to the defense of coach Fred Hoiberg, saying the booing in the last game was ill informed and inappropriate and Hoiberg did the best pretty much anyone could with the hand he was dealt.
“Talent is very important,” Wade agreed. “Talent makes all of us look better. Fred was dealt a young team and a team that didn’t really have an identity. It was kind of unfair, in the sense, in his second year to get a whole new team and say, ‘Be great with it.’ It takes a while. He’s still as a young coach learning the game and figuring things out. Everyone wants you to be the Cleveland Cavaliers. I thought as the season went on and I watched Fred, I watched the coaches, I thought. ‘They did as good as they could with the hand they were dealt.’ And even with that, injuries happen and that made it even worse. And trades happen that changed (things). All in all, to go through everything we went through and still be able to make the playoffs, I thought they did a good job. I definitely don’t agree with the chant last night that was going on in the arena. I definitely believe that he got better throughout this year. And I think you have (more of a grasp) for what he wants to do with his team. You’ve got to give people a chance. If you’re going to change his team again next year while he’s coaching here, that’s tough to have a new team each year that you’re coaching. You want to have some consistency. You want to have a direction. You want the roster that you want as well. I’m not saying he didn’t want me here. But I know he wants a certain kind of ability and talent on his roster and that he feels he can coach to it. A lot goes into it. But all in all, I thought he did a good job.”
And Wade admitted he was won over to Rondo after a difficult start.
“I definitely really became a fan of Rajon as the season went on,” Wade admitted. “It’s always good to have another coach on the floor. I know everyone can point at a guy’s limitations of what he can’t do. Just watching Rondo from afar, I thought he was great. I thought he was great with the young guys on the team. I thought he was great with understanding how to handle me and Jimmy. As a point guard, obviously he has a tough situation to be in, but I thought he handled it very well. For him, I thought he had a great season, and I think around the league people need to understand and see that. This is a guy who can help you and help your team win if you allow him to be who he is. I think as the season went on, he was able to be who he was here. And once everyone started to understand who he was, and I think that’s the biggest thing.”
Though the question is whether Wade can do a good job for the Bulls, whether he wants to and whether he will. And just who he is now. There are obviously no answers yet.
“I will be 36 next year,” Wade pointed out. “You definitely want your talents to be used where you can get the most out of it on a nightly basis as much as you can. There’s so many different variables that come into play, especially for me at this point in my career. I have a great luxury. I don’t need to ring chase, but I can. Or I can be a part of passing down my knowledge to younger players. Whatever I decide, I’m going to embrace whatever role I have on a team. That’s sometimes being the second option. Sometimes I’m going to be the first. And sometimes this season, I had to be the third or fourth.
“I’m an open-minded person,” Wade said about being a sixth man. “I’m always open to a lot of things. That’s never been presented to me. I’ve never had that, but I will never be a person that says, ‘Oh, never.’ You do what’s best for the team and yourself. It’s moreso when they come to me with their vision of where they’re going, if I feel I can be a big part of it and be comfortable with it. I don’t know. I haven’t (written) it down yet where I can sit back and say these are my pros and cons, which I do. I’ve been doing it since college. I don’t have to do it now. I have at least a month before I have to start thinking that way. I’m just going to get away and let my hair grow a little bit, get a tan.
“I only played in one organization my entire career, but the biggest thing is I came here and I was embraced. Not only by the city, but up top. I was embraced by the coaches, the players,” Wade noted. “There’s a lot of things that happened throughout the year that, yeah, it wasn’t all gravy. It wasn’t all good. But there was moments, too, where it was cool. I didn’t know what to expect. But I don’t regret my decision at all. Losing, like I said, it’s never easy, especially when you’ve won championships. Whenever you lose it always sucks, but you sit back and reflect on the positive. Each year tells its own story. And this year had a different story. But the same ending as a lot of my seasons; you lose. Like most guys, besides LeBron. His end in the Finals. Most people’s end in a loss at some point in the playoffs. When you’re playing basketball for money at the top level, it’s not all bad. I definitely don’t regret my decision of being here this season.”
There was some speculation that signing Wade could lead to attracting free agents.
“It happened in Miami where it just so happened one of my good friends is one of the best players to ever play the game of basketball,” said Wade. “And something great happened out of it. That was then. This is now. When I did that the first time, it was come and be a part of (a championship). I don’t want to tell somebody to come here just because I need a friend. If you feel that the team is put in a position that that person or two people can help take you to that next level, then yeah I will make that call. But I’m not making a call just to make a call. I wouldn’t do that.”
So Wade chills. There were no questions about whether he’ll ride on that famous banana boat with his NBA friends again. Though LeBron seems like he’ll be busy another month or so. Jimmy Butler met with management and then excited quickly without comment. Wade said Butler is important to him, but said this was a Dwyane Wade decision even as he apologized for drifting into third person.
“I think they want a defined vision and view of where they’re going,” said Wade of Bulls management. “As player, with player options, you want that, too. I want it smack dead in my face. Of how it’s gonna be. And from them, too. What their thought of my role or position could be. It’s definitely from both sides. I respect Gar and Pax from the relationship I’ve been able to develop with those guys. I look forward to the opportunity where we sit down and have that face to face about what both sides want to do.”