Chicago Bulls

Dwyane Wade expresses serious concern about elbow injury but hopes to channel a little 'Wolverine'

Dwyane Wade expresses serious concern about elbow injury but hopes to channel a little 'Wolverine'

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.”

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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.”

If the Bulls buy out Dwyane Wade, the Heat seem like they'd welcome him back

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USA TODAY

If the Bulls buy out Dwyane Wade, the Heat seem like they'd welcome him back

The Bulls are in complete rebuild mode, and that means they have little use for 35-year-old Dwyane Wade.

ESPN's Nick Friedell reported last week that it's a matter of when - not if - the Bulls will buy out Wade. The future Hall of Famer is due $24 million this upcoming season, but how much Wade receives in a potential buyout could hold things up in the short-term.

The question then becomes: where would Wade land after he passes through waivers and becomes a free agent?

A potential destination is joining good friend LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. But Wade could also consider going back to the Miami Heat, where he spent the first 13 years of his NBA career.

And if he did, budding star Hassan Whiteside says the team would welcome back Wade with open arms.

"It'd be great," Whiteside told the Sun Sentinel. "It's a three-time NBA champion coming back, coming in and really helping a team out. It would be great."

Stay tuned, but it seems like a Wade-to-Miami reunion is a real possibility.

State of the Bulls: Stacked 2018 draft class

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USA TODAY

State of the Bulls: Stacked 2018 draft class

2018 draft class is loaded at the top

Quietly, you can bet Bulls' front office executives John Paxson and Gar Forman had a little celebration after hearing that prep star Marvin Bagley III was going to graduate from high school early and enroll at Duke for the 2017-18 season, making him eligible for the 2018 draft.

Bagley, a 6'11 power forward from Los Angeles, is being compared to longtime NBA star Chris Bosh, right down to his smooth left-handed shooting touch. Bagley averaged 24.6 points, 10.1 rebounds and two blocked shots during his junior season for Sierra Canyon H.S. He's also fared well against NBA competition at the highly-regarded Drew League in L.A. this summer. Bagley’s physical tools are off the charts, and you can count on Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski preparing him well for life in the NBA.

Most NBA scouts and execs expect the No. 1 overall pick to come down to either Bagley or Michael Porter Jr., who will play his one season of college basketball at Missouri. The 6'10 Porter averaged an amazing 34.8 points and 13.8 rebounds last season against Seattle high school competition. He's considered a more dynamic scorer than Bagley with more range on his jump shot. Some scouts believe he could quickly develop into one of the league's elite players with Kevin Durant-type length and shooting ability at the small forward position.

International swingman Luka Doncic is also highly coveted by NBA teams. The 6'8 swingman has excellent shooting range, and is also capable of creating his own shot with outstanding ball-handling ability. Forget the stereotype of European players being mechanical and unable to compete athletically, Doncic is capable of being an 18-20 point scorer in the NBA and should go in the top five next June. He's considered one of the best international prospects in the last decade.

Two 7-footers also will hear their names called early on draft night 2018. University of Arizona freshman DeAndre Ayton averaged 19.8 points and 12 rebounds in high school last season, while Texas freshman center Mohamed Bomba has an incredible 7-foot-9 wingspan. Sure, the NBA has moved away from the traditional low post center, but teams are still looking to acquire agile big men like Karl-Anthony Towns, Joel Embiid, DeAndre Jordan, Rudy Gobert and Hassan Whiteside. Depending on how they fare against top level college competition, Ayton and Bomba could round out the top five.

Other names to watch in the lottery portion of next year's draft include Texas A&M power forward Robert Williams, Michigan State's forward duo of Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr., and the latest one-and-dones from John Calipari's Kentucky program, center Nick Richards and small forward Jarred Vanderbilt.

In case you missed it, ESPN released its preseason win total expectations for the Eastern Conference on Wednesday, and the Bulls were dead last with a projected record of 26-56. Now, I'm not sure a team with veterans Dwyane Wade and Robin Lopez and the three young players acquired in the Jimmy Butler trade with Minnesota will be quite that bad, but if you're going to rebuild, the idea is to get the best draft pick possible, and the Bulls appear to be on course for a top-five selection depending on how the lottery falls.

If the Bulls are able to land an elite talent like Porter Jr., Bagley III or Doncic in the draft, then use their $40-50 million in cap space to land a couple of quality free agents, the rebuild might not be as painful as some fans are fearing.

Last dance for LeBron in Cleveland?

Well-connected NBA writer Chris Sheridan dropped this bomb on Twitter Wednesday, quoting an NBA source, "This will be LeBron's final season in Cleveland. He is 100 percent leaving. Relationship with owners beyond repair." Don’t forget, Sheridan was the first national writer to report James was going to leave Miami to go back to Cleveland in 2014, so his reports definitely warrant a little extra attention.

Okay, we've already heard countless rumors about James planning to join the Lakers after next season. He's built a mansion in Brentwood, is close with Magic Johnson and will be able to bring another superstar with him to L.A. like Paul George or Russell Westbrook. Plus, the Lakers have a number of talented young players in place like Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. and a promising coach in Luke Walton.

Add in the likelihood Kyrie Irving will be traded before training camp opens and LeBron's long-standing poor relationship with Cavs' owner Dan Gilbert, and you have the perfect formula for another James' free agent decision next July. Although, I'm not sure why LeBron would want to go West, where Golden State is positioned to dominate the league for another five seasons, with strong challengers like the Rockets and Spurs still in place. 

But if we've learned anything from watching James over the years, he's clearly a man who wants to align the odds in his favor. So don't rule out anything when it comes to James' free agent decision. If the Cavs make a home run trade for Irving, maybe LeBron decided to plays out his career in his home state. If not, look for him to find a team with the cap space to bring in another top star to run with him.

Back in 2010, the Bulls carved out the cap space to add two max contract stars, but lost out to Pat Riley in Miami. This time around they won't be on James' July travel itinerary.

One thing we know for sure. Where LeBron plays in 2018 will be the number one story throughout the NBA season.