The concern was etched on Dwyane Wade’s face as he tried to explain his emotions, with the attempt of being upbeat but the reality was staring him smack in the face—the fear was starting to creep in, if it wasn’t already present.
“Definitely a fear,” Wade confessed to CSNChicago.com in his newfound body armor, a sling for his right elbow. “Because it’s my shooting elbow and the biggest fear…it’s not a lot of time left in the season. That’s the biggest thing. Fourteen games left. That’s not ideal.”
Going for a rebound in the second half the Bulls’ 98-91 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, Wade got tangled between a teammate and Grizzlies big man Zach Randolph.
“No, it’s a first,” Wade told a throng of reporters. “I’ve always said as long as I play, I’ll almost experience everything. Hopefully it’s not as bad as I perceive it to be. Just get in tomorrow, see what the doctors say and start the rehab process and try to feel better.
“I knew it was something more, just with what I heard. Try to play with it a little bit, until the pain started getting a little more excruciating.”
He heard what he described as a “click-click”, as he explained it to Rajon Rondo as they commiserated in the locker room. Wade told everybody he was going for an MRI Thursday morning, which could seal his fate for the rest of the regular season as the Bulls are fighting for their playoff lives.
Jokingly, Wade messed with teammates who he claimed wouldn’t help him get around the tedious and now taxing task of dressing himself as he only had one good arm.
The ideal person to help with matters, his wife Gabrielle Union, is out of town so the 35-year old is left to his own devices in the meantime.
Getting instructions from trainer Jeff Tanaka, he emerged with a elbow sleeve that looked similar to the one Barry Bonds wore when he was on his way to breaking home run records in the early 2000s.
But there won’t be any “cream” or “clear” to help Wade through his injury and for a few moments he revealed the sober state of affairs, the big unknown he’s facing.
“That’s a fear. Not even the MRI,” Wade said to CSNChicago.com. “Moreso how long it takes to rehab it. The MRI will probably say it’s a strain, and it’s about the process of how long it’ll take to get it where I need to get it to get back on the floor.”
If Jimmy Butler’s 2015 elbow injury is a model, it’s definitely possible Wade could miss the rest of the regular season.
Butler missed a month when he injured his elbow getting caught on a screen against the Clippers, but it was his non-shooting elbow and he had enough time to return back before the postseason.
“He asked me how long I was out, I told him and he was like wow,” Butler said. “It is what it is. Hopefully it’s not what I had. But I know it’s pain, I know that much. I know how it feels.”
And when Butler shared his experience with Wade, Wade didn’t come away feeling reassured that things will turn out in his favor.
“Umm…I’m trying to be optimistic because I don’t know,” Wade said to CSNChicago.com. “It’s the unknown. You don’t wanna be too negative. So I’m really gonna hold it until tomorrow when I talk to the doctors.”
Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg knew something wasn’t right with Wade, so he asked the veteran if he wanted to sit. Sensing it was a crucial time in the game and the season, Wade stayed in and tested it—to his chagrin.
“I said I needed to see. So we ran a play for me and I knew that was one of the tests, if I could put a little steam on it,” Wade said.
A pass from Wade to Denzel Valentine didn’t complete the way he wanted to, so to the bench he went, never to return for the night—and for who knows how long.
“And after that, it got sore and sore and stiffer,” Wade said to CSNChicago.com. “At that timeout I said, I’m not gonna help nobody going out there.”
“It felt like a hyperextension. But those two pops, those clicks, click-click, kinda different than I felt. I keep it optimistic, a positive mindset because I take care of my body well. I got a lot of people that will be here tomorrow.”
They’ll poke and prod Wade, the veteran who returned back to Chicago to help the Bulls restore some form of relevance and at the least, qualify for the NBA playoffs—which begins in less than 40 days.
And with everything that’s happened this year, the things Wade could control and plenty of others he couldn’t—his season could end on a fairly innocuous play, going for a rebound in a critical game after it seemed things were finally turning for the better.
So asking “what’s else could happen now” isn’t truly on his radar, although it may have to be the case sometime in the next 24 hours.
“I hope what’s next is me getting back on the floor. It’s definitely not the first season where it’s been challenges,” Wade said. “If I play as long as Vince (Carter), it won’t be the last. I never thought Vince would go that long. I’m just gonna plug away at it.”
Who knows if the Bulls finally found something by re-inserting Rondo with Wade and Butler, if the three could finally exist in on-court harmony in a way they all couldn’t in late December.
They didn’t have the best second game, although the Grizzlies find a way to muck up games against the best teams. Butler struggled facing constant double teams and unlikely earlier in the season when Wade was out, Butler didn’t take full advantage.
He’s looked more worn down than ever without Wade around, and even with a favorable schedule in the last week and a half—the Bulls’ last six games are against teams currently under .500—the Bulls’ playoff hopes could be dashed.
After all, even with Wade, the Bulls have been hovering around .500 all season, searching for consistency in seemingly all the wrong places.
“(I’m upset) with us losing and Detroit losing, us losing the ballgame first,” Wade said to CSNChicago.com. “I know it’s gonna be sore and stiff tonight, wake up and be in pain. Take a couple days, heal up like 'Wolverine,' hopefully I can get out there and play.”