Dwyane Wade out for regular season with elbow injury

Dwyane Wade out for regular season with elbow injury

Dwyane Wade wore a wistful smile as he talked to the media at the Advocate Center, knowing the quiet dream he had of meeting one of his best friends for a playoff battle was extinguished.

The "pop-pop" he felt in his right elbow was the first sign last night things weren't going to fall his way, followed by his teammate Jimmy Butler telling him his experiences with the same injury.

But he still felt somewhat optimistic. 

Until his MRI showed not the worst possible news but not great news by any stretch, that he'll miss the remainder of the regular season with a small fracture in his right elbow. 

"Technical terms would be a sprain or whatever, but things like that," Wade said. "But the good thing about it is it did go back in. Obviously it's a big injury in baseball when it comes to baseball and pitchers — the Tommy John word that everyone in baseball and pitchers are afraid of – so it was big in that way.

"But I was lucky that it went back in and now the biggest things is about protecting it, making sure it heals the right way, so I can get back to my football passes on the basketball court.''

Thus, it ends the dream of hoping the Bulls would go on some magical playoff run to meet up with LeBron James for a showdown. Wade wouldn't say it publicly, but it's a small part of what kept him going through a tumultuous homecoming in Chicago.

He'll be in a soft cast for the next two weeks then start his rehab from then. He didn't seem too optimistic about his prospects for returning in the event the Bulls qualify for the playoffs, but wouldn't commit to anything in the moment.

"I told them that I heard a ‘pop, pop,' and I kind of said that [Wednesday night], and it was pretty much a dislocation at the time, and it went back in, so kind of dealing with the aftermath of what that looks like. This is what it looks like," Wade said.

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What it looks like for the Bulls is anybody's guess, as they're 10th in the East, a game back of Detroit with one meeting left. Being without their second best player and mature leader makes that task all the more difficult.

It took the air out of Bulls practice, as Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg called it a "tough blow" more than once.

"It was a little bit of shock on guys' faces when he walked in, seeing the arm in the type of shape that it was," Hoiberg said. "It's just something where these young guys have to take it as an opportunity to step up, obviously when we need it most, it's a very important stretch of our season."

A very important stretch without a guy who played the way he's played the past three seasons, to large degree. On some nights, he was the Bulls best player and easily provided the most inspiration.

Averaging 18.6 points, 3.9 assists and 4.5 rebounds in 30.2 minutes per game, that production will be hard to muster for the rest of the roster as Wade will only be able to bring the inspiration from the sideline.

Hoiberg wouldn't reveal who would start in Wade's place for Friday's game against the Wizards or beyond, but he could start Denzel Valentine at shooting guard to spread the floor.

With 14 games remaining, there's far more questions than answers, which was the case for the Bulls even before Wade's injury. 

"In this league it's an opportunity league for certain guys and it comes in different ways," Wade said. "So this opportunity for someone that probably wasn't getting enough time that they wanted, probably wasn't getting the touches they wanted. This is going to be an opportunity to step up and try and help this team as we are in this battle to make the playoffs down the stretch."

If they'll do that, Wade's biggest role will be turning into basketball's version of Bundini Brown for Butler, as Butler will have to reverse course from his post-All Star production to drag this group of inexperienced misfits to the playoffs.

"A lot is going to go on Jimmy's shoulders, but a lot has been on his shoulders already, so he'll be fine," Wade said. "He kind of told me what I was looking at. Like I said yesterday, I didn't want to believe him. I didn't like what he was seeing. It's not nothing he wanted. It's not nothing that anybody in here wanted. But it's something we gotta deal with."

And what Wade will have to deal with for his own future, a $23.8 million player option for next season he'll have to exercise or decline, is probably directly tied to whether Butler is on the roster.

"At this point, it's too much cart in front of the horse," Wade said. "Couple hours removed but definitely too soon."

But not too soon to say this isn't the way Wade's storybook return was supposed to end in his mind.

Jimmy Butler on call: 'Was it a ticky-tack call? Yes.'

Jimmy Butler on call: 'Was it a ticky-tack call? Yes.'

NEW ORLEANS — Some would say being named as an All-Star starter is a mark of true superstardom in the NBA, while others would say the whistles going in a player’s direction is how superstar respect is truly applied.

In Jimmy Butler’s case, the tweet from official Zach Zarba when Butler’s potential game-winning jumper came up short Thursday night could be the best example of how Butler has risen in stature.

Of course, Butler doesn’t see it that way, as Celtics guard Marcus Smart touched Butler’s elbow on his release and could have affected a shot that hit the front rim—and the NBA agreed in its two-minute report released Friday afternoon.

Butler made the subsequent free throws and doesn’t see why there’s any level of controversy.

“A foul’s a foul,” said Butler at the NBA’s All-Star media availability at the Ritz Carlton in New Orleans Friday afternoon. “Everybody keeps asking me if he fouled me or not, or the call. If I hit your elbow when you’re shooting a jump shot, and you miss it, you’re gonna be howling. It’s a foul. You can’t knock that it was a foul.”

Joking that Celtics guard and fellow All-Star Isaiah Thomas is still upset with him for the call, as Thomas blasted the officiating after the game, he seems to understand on some level the amount of discourse that call has picked up in the past day or so.

Butler, one of the most physical players in the league given his position and size, would surely howl if he were on the other end of a call but since it went his way and enabled the Bulls to hit the All-Star break on a high, would only relent ever-so-slightly.

Was it a ticky-tack foul? Yes,” Butler said. “But I would’ve made it if he didn’t hit my elbow, I believe.”

However, on the subject of superstar calls, Butler wouldn’t give any credence to the notion he gets the same benefit of the doubt as All-Star participants LeBron James, Kevin Durant and James Harden.

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Whether it’s Butler’s belief that he’ll always be viewed as the underdog or that he’s not yet recognized among the game’s truly elite players, he made certain to leave no room for interpretation.

“I don’t get superstar calls,” Butler said. “I’m pretty sure that when I get fouled, I get fouled.”

Cubs: Why Jon Lester thinks Year 2 will be different for Jason Heyward

Cubs: Why Jon Lester thinks Year 2 will be different for Jason Heyward

MESA, Ariz. – Jon Lester has already noticed a difference in Jason Heyward. It’s not some magical swing adjustment or best-shape-of-his-life hype or simply the bounce from the Cubs finally winning the World Series.

Lester already experienced this, signing the biggest contract in franchise history and reporting to Arizona for Year 2 in a different state of mind. The Cubs hope that helps Heyward recover from the worst offensive season of his career and round out his Gold Glove defense, baseball IQ and clubhouse intangibles. 

“He’s a little bit more comfortable,” Lester said before Friday’s workout at the Sloan Park complex. “That’s just human nature. You come into a situation with everything else that you’re bringing along. You’re coming into a place where you don’t know a lot of guys. You’re trying to prove that you’re worth something.

“You’re trying to prove (it) to the city, to your teammates, to your family, to everybody else, all this stuff. So I think now it’s a matter of: He can just go out and play.”

A dead arm slowed down Lester during his first spring training in a Cubs uniform. The $155 million ace then got diagnosed with the yips in front of a national TV audience on Opening Day 2015. That April, the lefty went 0-2 with a 6.23 ERA in four starts before closing with double-digit wins, a 3.34 ERA and another 200-inning season for a playoff team.

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Lester had perhaps the greatest season of his life in 2016, going 19-5 with a 2.44 ERA, earning his fourth All-Star selection, finishing second in the Cy Young Award voting and becoming the National League Championship Series co-MVP.  

“That’s kind of how I felt coming into my second year,” Lester said. “OK, we got that one over with. We did some things that we weren’t expected to do. Now it’s time to take that next step.

“You just feel more comfortable. You feel like you can come in and kind of let your shoulders down and let your guard down and just worry about playing baseball and getting your work done.”

Like Lester, Heyward wanted to play at Wrigley Field and live in Chicago and didn’t necessarily grab the biggest offer when he signed his $184 million megadeal. Heyward had also grown up around winning teams and understood that number would follow him for the rest of his career. Both players got the benefit of the doubt by being good teammates, holding themselves accountable and not hiding from the media.

The Cubs will run through their first full-squad workout in Mesa on Saturday, but Heyward has been hitting at the facility throughout the offseason, trying to rediscover what once made him a 27-homer threat for the 2012 Atlanta Braves.

“It seems like he’s a little more relaxed,” Lester said. “People told me the same thing two years ago. But when you’re going through it, the 3-for-4 days or the days you pitch seven innings and give up two runs still aren’t good enough. You feel like you have to do more. That second year just feels like you get back to kind of being yourself.”