NBA Playoff matchups are set and Dwyane Wade gets the last laugh as he embarks on another title chase as a member of the Chicago Bulls. It’s Wade’s first playoff appearance in 13 Hall of Fame seasons wearing anything other than a Miami Heat uniform.
Wade decided to sign with the Bulls last season after Miami refused to commit to his salary demands, citing old age and a rebuilding process led by younger players. Wade felt disrespected by Miami’s offer and felt that he should be rewarded for the three championships he has helped bring the city and the times when he took less money so that the front office could construct a winning club.
I wrote a piece for The Shadow League during the NBA free agency frenzy back in July, when it was clear that Wade would be angrily leaving the only NBA home he’s ever known to return to his essence.
“All good things must come to an end and the NBA is big business first, as we have found out during this crazy free agent period. As great as an asset as Dwyane Wade has been for the Miami Heat, his asking price as a deteriorating, 34-year-old player was too high for President Pat Riley, who has accepted the fact that Miami is in rebuild mode and didn’t want to albatross his team with an aging superstar.
Wade wasn’t feeling the hesitation on giving up the loot and he decided to express his displeasure with Miami by returning home to Chicago and signing a two-year, $47 million deal with the Bulls.
"I'm excited to go back to the place where I always envisioned playing basketball," said Wade on Live with Kelly this morning. "Being a kid growing up, Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls was the team for us...It's still surreal and I'm still numb."
During his first year in Chicago, Wade posted very respectable numbers at age 35 played 60 games and averaged 18.3 ppg, 4.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists. His veteran leadership, championship pedigree and his pain tolerance and ability to bounce back from injury (his season was reported done after fracturing his elbow in March) has helped Chicago more than anything. Those same ingredients are what a struggling Miami team lacked for most of this season.
Now, Miami will be watching him on TV as Wade and the Chicago Bulls (41-41) snatched the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference on the final night of the regular season ny smashing the New Jersey Nets 112-73. The No. 7 seed went to Indiana, who handled a hot Atlanta squad 104-86 on Wednesday night.
Wade has now made the playoffs in 12 of his 13 seasons. It’s a second home to a guard who has provided us with a plethora of glorious and heroic playoff moments. He’s played with the greatest center of our generation in Shaquille O’Neal and the greatest all-around performer of the last 15 years in LeBron James.
Now he’s trying to help teach a talented and young squad how to dream big and play bigger on the NBA’s most lit stage.
Miami missed the playoffs for just the second time in 9 years and had one of the more dramatic turnarounds in NBA history thanks to the stellar finessing of Coach of the Year candidate Erik Spoelstra. Miami lost Chris Bosh and Dion Waiters, were 11-30 in mid-January and then flipped that record and finished 41-41, just missing the 8th playoff seed.
This playoffs is about poetic justice for Wade and just edging out his former team, essentially making the difference over 82 games for the Bulls, has been a championship caliber vindication for one of the game’s greats.