Chicago Bulls

Rajon Rondo 'might' play in Bulls' regular-season finale vs. Nets

Rajon Rondo 'might' play in Bulls' regular-season finale vs. Nets

Rajon Rondo is a renowned math whiz, but for the purposes of his health status for the season finale against the Brooklyn Nets he should turn into a Shakespearean student.

"To be or not to be (active)."

"To be or not to be (a playoff team)."

Those are the questions yet to be answered. For Rondo, 24 hours before a game, his recovery from a right wrist sprain is still undetermined, as he went through some contact at Tuesday's practice but wouldn't go as far as saying he would definitely play.

"I might (play)," said Rondo when asked by a media member "might you play tomorrow," as he clearly likes the play of words.

Playing around seems to be a common theme for the mercurial point guard, as he held the microphones from the local TV stations in his hand as opposed to allowing them to stand upright on their own — in his left hand, it should be noted.

"It's not as painful as it was two days ago," Rondo said. "I'm confident in my team, but I do want to play. I miss playing the game. I miss getting up and down. But I'm gonna try to do the right thing for myself and for the team."

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg is calling Rondo's injury a gametime decision for Wednesday and credited the point guard for his perseverance in trying to get back from a "significant" sprain he suffered more than a week ago in New York

"He sat out a couple things, but he did have a little bit of contact and that's the important step," Hoiberg said. "I give Rajon a lot of credit for the way he's battled and done everything he can to get himself ready to play. He's done a great job, been very diligent in his treatments and we'll make the call tomorrow pretty much before the tip."

[BULLS TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

If Rondo doesn't go, or even if he does, Jerian Grant has been a net positive in a number of ways. Ways that can help a team in a playoff series if they expect to win more than a game against a superior opponent.

Grant has averaged 15.6 points, seven assists and four rebounds in three games since being reinserted as starter and has credited Rondo for assistance.

"No, I don't have any credit. He's studying the game," Rondo said. "We watched film a couple days ago on the plane, and he's seeing where he can make plays and where he can't. The best thing about his stats yesterday is he had zero turnovers. Eleven assists to zero turnovers is big for a young point guard.

"He's had a great opportunity. He was ready when his name was called, and he's doing the same thing the last couple games. I like seeing him out there."

Figuring out Grant or Rondo this year has been a mystery, contributing to the up and down, in and out malaise the Bulls have displayed since October.

For the Bulls, 81 games into a winding, grinding and fatiguing season, the clarity on what they are, the clarity on how this season will ultimately be ranked, is still a "might."

It "might" be considered an epic failure of sorts if they fall below the .500 mark and miss the playoffs again, especially if controlling their own destiny results in two losses in five days to the team with the worst record in the NBA.

Considering the Nets are sitting point guard Jeremy Lin and center Brook Lopez for rest, the Bulls have an even greater opportunity to do what they did against the Orlando Magic in taking care of business against a lesser opponent and taking a deep breath before watching the rest of the playoff bracket settle itself before the weekend.

Hoiberg only mentioned Lin and Lopez by name after Tuesday's practice as the main threats, but that was before the Nets announced the duo would be sitting so it essentially removes any excuse for losing Wednesday.

"Our guys know. They know what's at stake," Hoiberg said. "They understand what happened on Saturday. Just have to be locked in from the minute we walk in this building tomorrow. Be ready to play a game."

One would think that goes without saying, but with this bunch, you never can tell.

Oh, to be ... or not.

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.