PHILADELPHIA — Some are being more coy about it than others, but Dwyane Wade will return from his right elbow injury Saturday against the Brooklyn Nets, just in time to get a couple games in before the playoffs.
And Jimmy Butler is the happiest guy in the room, his eyes lighting up when asked about the prospects of how Wade will fit in with a Bulls team that plays a little differently than the one he left on March 15.
“I’m stoked to have my guy back, let him get out there, get in a rhythm, and do what he’s done for years,” Butler said to CSNChicago.com as he walked off the floor following the Bulls’ 102-90 win over the Philadelphia 76ers Thursday night. “We just want him comfortable and pick up where he left off.”
How Wade fits into a team that plays a little faster, shoots more threes and relies more on the playmaking of Rajon Rondo than it did before will be interesting to see, and won’t be an easy adjustment.
But with three games remaining and the Bulls still in “must-win” mode, trying to clinch a playoff spot, it could prove as the perfect training ground before the postseason.
Butler, who takes up his share of possessions as a facilitator as well as scorer, will take it upon himself to make sure Wade fits in with the way things are done. Wade will certainly get his share of touches to create, but Wade was also one of the league’s premier off-the-ball scorers when he played next to LeBron James in Miami.
“Tell him to be aggressive, pass him the ball to where he can get used to scoring with ease and let him know to come in and stay aggressive,” Butler told CSNChicago.com. “We want him to be that way the last three games and hopefully, the playoffs.”
Wade nearly carried the Miami Heat to the Eastern Conference Finals last year, as they fell in a Game 7 to the Toronto Raptors in the East Semis. Any semblance of that player will be invaluable for the Bulls this time around.
“Even though we’re playing good without him, we can’t make the playoffs without D.Wade,” Nikola Mirotic said. “We need him to have a chance. We need his experience, he knows how to play those games. We don’t have that much experience. He’s been working so hard to get back. Hopefully he can return and we can make the playoffs and everybody will be there. We’re gonna fight.”
Mirotic has played in 12 playoff games, back when the Bulls advanced to the second round before losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games before Tom Thibodeau was fired and Fred Hoiberg was brought in.
Butler was a different player then as well in 2015, as was Wade last year. But he knows with all the conditioning and drills and rehab Wade has been up to, nothing compares to game action.
Which is why getting him out there against a bad Brooklyn Nets team or an underachieving Orlando Magic team is better than throwing him out there in Game 1 of a playoff series next Saturday or Sunday.
“Now it’s about getting in a rhythm. Like he knows and everybody knows there’s no shape like basketball shape,” Butler told CSNChicago.com “As much running and shooting as we can do, it’s different when you get out there in a game. Like I said, I just want him out there just going, just playing and doing what he does.”