Bulls

Dwyane Wade may have to summon another magic moment against Celtics

Dwyane Wade may have to summon another magic moment against Celtics

The resume is impeccable as Dwyane Wade has authored some of the most memorable playoff moments in recent history and with the Bulls lacking playoff experience and toughness in some key areas, they could turn to him more than usual against Boston.

People forget, had Wade's Miami Heat beat the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Finals, Wade would've been the MVP with a stellar performance but with LeBron James coming up short, so did Wade's Heat.

A second Finals MVP would've put Wade in an elite category, as he already owns a 2006 Finals MVP, so he's as decorated as any playoff participant in the series — having played more playoff minutes than any of the Celtics players.

Can he do it again, this time in a Bulls uniform?

Even at his age, Wade has done more than just turn it up last year as he nearly carried the Miami Heat to the Eastern Conference Finals, taking the Toronto Raptors to a Game 7 after turning the first round into a personal showcase against the Charlotte Hornets.

Against the Raptors he took 20 3-pointers, including going four of six in a 38-point Game 3 performance in Miami. He literally caught the basketball world off-guard, giving credence to the nickname "Father Prime."

He averaged 23.9 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.6 assists in the seven-game set, with another 30-point game sprinkled in last May.

Two 30-point takeovers could mean a Bulls upset in this series.

"The biggest thing with Dwyane is this is where he has played his best basketball — in the postseason," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "We watched all his games last year in the postseason and he was unbelievable as far as the versatility in his game and really extending his range. He didn't shoot a lot of threes in the regular season given the different types of isolations. It's the moment that he lives for. When you got a guy who is going to want the pressure on his shoulders, it's a great luxury to have."

Wade will likely have Celtics guard Avery Bradley on him, perhaps the best on-ball defender in the league. Bradley takes away airspace from a dribbler and has a strong enough base not to get bullied in the paint if Wade takes him down to the block.

[MORE BULLS-CELTICS: The Jimmy Butler-Isaiah Thomas matchup is tricky territory for the Bulls]

It doesn't sound like the Bulls will go much to that strategy, unless Hoiberg is playing playoff possum to throw Brad Stevens off the scent.

"You have to be a little careful. They're so physical with their guards," Hoiberg said. "Avery Bradley is one of the toughest defenders in the league as far as getting into the ball. He does a great job of fronting. You can't stall your offense trying to jam the ball in if it’s not there."

All that said, Hoiberg believes they played their best basketball of the season during the stretch when they went 7-2 to finish the season — most of that happened while Wade was still recovering from his right elbow injury.

"Players who have that type of experience have that type of responsibility, of doing a little more this time of year. Now we gotta continue on and do the things that gave us some success," Hoiberg said. "You can't completely change the way you do things. But you have to lean on your guys who've been through this experience."

Due to the necessity of the personnel, Rajon Rondo took more control and Jimmy Butler took another step, surrounded by more shooters and more driving lanes. When Wade returned for the last three games in the effort to get his rhythm back, it’s been a slow integration.

Now, the minutes are about to ramp up. Wade's 29.9 minutes per game were a career low. He played 24, 22 and 22 minutes in his three return games, turning the ball over 13 times in the three games.

"We're going to continue to push the minutes up. We had a goal of about 28 the last game if we needed him," Hoiberg said. "He was in there a little longer than he normally would've been just to try to get him a little bit of a rhythm. He's continuing to come back from injury. It was an injury with his arm and he was given full clearance for that. It's more now, especially after getting the three games, of how he's feeling from a conditioning standpoint."

As much as Hoiberg wants the Bulls to keep their pace up, the playoffs are a different animal. Possessions are traditionally more limited, the game slows down and players of Wade's caliber become exponentially more valuable.

"That was the biggest thing with Dwyane getting back, he's won a lot of games for us in the fourth quarters when the game slows down. it's a great luxury to have," Hoiberg said.

But in the playoffs, the luxuries become extreme necessities, and Wade may have to summon one more magic moment, or four.

Three Things to Watch: Bulls square off against LeBron and the Cavaliers

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Three Things to Watch: Bulls square off against LeBron and the Cavaliers

Here are Three Things to Watch in the Bulls' Tuesday night tilt against the Cavaliers on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live.

1. LeBron James will be on your television

Love him or hate him, LeBron James is must-see TV. Now in his 15th NBA season, James has shown no signs of slowing down. Despite playing just one preseason game (against the Bulls), James has shown anything but rust in three games, averaging 25.0 points on 60 percent shooting, 8.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists in nearly 37 minutes. He's a threat every night to do something you've never seen on a basketball court, His Airness included. Justin Holiday and Paul Zipser will have their hands full against the game's best player.

2. Lauri Markkanen, Week 2

Small sample size alert! But through the season's first week Markkanen and Ben Simmons are the only rookies averaging a double-double (Dallas' Dennis Smith has played just one game, averaging 16 points and 10 assists). While the Bulls have struggled through two games, Markkanen's net rating is third best on the team and he leads the Bulls bigs in rebounds per game and rebound percentage. Markkanen has shown some versatility offensively, and his 7 free-throw attempts have been a nice surprise as well.

3. Don't forget: The Bulls swept the Cavaliers last year

OK, so expecting a victory Tuesday night in Cleveland isn't smart. The Bulls will be underdogs just like they were in each of the four games last season, all of which were Bulls winners. It was the first time in 52 division series that LeBron James had been swept, which is pretty remarkable considering the Bulls were the No. 8 seed and the Cavs coasted to a third straight NBA Finals. We're not over here predicting a win. But just remember: the Bulls have fared well against James in the regular season.

Zach LaVine not sweating contract extension, anxious to get back in uniform

Zach LaVine not sweating contract extension, anxious to get back in uniform

The Zach LaVine timeline for a Bulls debut remains the same, although he’s ahead of schedule in every metric of his return from ACL surgery this past February.

It doesn’t mean he isn’t angling for more work and pushing his limits to learn the offense he’ll be featured in, along with taking contact “here and there,” in his words. He’s supposed to wait nine months from the day of his February 14 surgery before taking contact, which would put him at a November 14 practice before the Bulls go to Oklahoma City.

“I should be doing contact really soon. It all depends on them,” LaVine said in his first public words since media day several weeks ago. “I’m pushing them as hard as I can, but at the end of the day we still gotta be careful. I feel great. I’m doing everything I was doing before. I’m pretty sure I can do contact, but we’ve got to stick to that schedule. But every day I’m just getting back, trying to as close to 100 percent as I can before I come back.”

LaVine was at Air Canada Centre getting a workout in before the Bulls opener against the Raptors and has gotten in heavy workouts on the off days with the assistant coaches in the meantime.

Sticking to the schedule will be on both LaVine and the Bulls, although both sides could be tempted to cut corners a bit. It would be human nature for the Bulls to show the NBA world their centerpiece from the Jimmy Butler trade on draft night, as well as LaVine to want to be the frontline player he feels he deserves to be.

“Yeah, it’s definitely hard. I don’t like missing games,” LaVine said. “Before the injury I didn’t really miss any games. I think I missed one or two in my career, so it really sucks just sitting there, not being able to help. I try to help as much as I can from the sideline. You know, give a little advice here and there, but yeah it hurts.”

He’s also in line for a big-time extension, having passed the deadline for extensions for players in his 2014 draft class. He’ll have to wait until the summer, especially since it didn’t make sense for him to extend unless it was a max deal.

“Obviously, I want to be here for a long time,” LaVine said. “And I feel the deal is going to get done, either then or next summer. I don’t have any fear in that. I think I know I’ll be in black and red for a little bit longer. I’m very happy and looking forward to that day as well. The main concern is just getting back on the court, get my legs ready and try to help the team as much as possible until then.”

LaVine was averaging a career-high 18.9 points as a third option behind Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, but will be featured in Fred Hoiberg’s offense as a first and maybe even second option, too—especially seeing how anemic the Bulls offense has looked in the first two games.

“With the team that we have and the system that (Fred Hoiberg) put in, we’re going to get up a lot of threes,” LaVine said. “When we’re on we’re going to blow some teams out with those threes. When we’re off, as the last couple games have shown, it’s going to be a struggle to score sometimes, but I think that’s where I can come in and help, and I can’t wait to get out there and start playing.”

Never lacking for confidence, LaVine hasn’t been deterred by the losing or even the unfortunate Bobby Portis-Nikola Mirotic incident from last week.

“We’re building something here. People understand we’re going through a little bit of that process,” LaVine said. “But we’re going to play and win. When I’m on the court, I’m trying to win. Wins and losses do happen. We can always take positives from both of those. That’s how you grow.”

As for Mirotic, LaVine hasn’t spoken to him but has sent texts—as it seems many of the Bulls have reached out to their teammate over the last several days.

“It was unfortunate. That’s what happens when two players are battling I guess,” LaVine said. “I don’t think either of them were in the wrong. It was just something that happened, an altercation. Men are men sometimes. We never should have that happen. But I think we’ve moved past it. Bobby’s in a good spot. We’ve all tried to contact Niko. I think we’ll all be able to move forward.”